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According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the definition of totalitarianism is a form of government that theoretically permits no individual freedom and that seeks to subordinate all aspects of the individual’s life to the authority of the government (http://www.britannica.com/). Totalitarian governments are often believed to be a solution to political or economic problems in a country. Despite the brutality and lack of freedom, at its beginning, a totalitarian government often receives overwhelming support for its ideas and goals. History has proven that such governments have had a tremendous negative impact on their people and traditions.
Totalitarian governments often emerge from developing countries that are trying to build their economy. They are also considered to be a solution for countries that have recently been through a social, economic or political downfall. At the beginning of their rule, these regimes tend to be very popular and have the support of most people in the country. This popularity is mostly due to the government?s promises of an ideal society. A totalitarian administration also requires a charismatic leader and modern developments in transportation and communication to spread its message. In order for a totalitarian state to be built, the leader must have a tremendous will to transform the society into his version of utopia (http://www.uta.edu).
A central concept in the totalitarian system is the attainment of a specific goal. This goal is the reason why a totalitarian government exists and is essential to keeping the regime in power (http://www.britannica.com/). In Hitler?s case, his goals were the purification of the Aryan race and the expansion of his territory. In a totalitarian state, all of its resources are directed toward the achievement of the goal. Because the goal is the foundation for each particular regime, the government will never acknowledge its achievement, for that would therefore eliminate its purpose (http://www.britannica.com/). This idea of ?dangling the carrot? in front of its citizens, but rarely delivering, prolongs enthusiasm and support for these governments.
In a totalitarian state, power is in the hands of one person, the party leader who becomes the supreme ruler. Opposition parties are not allowed and there are no elections. The citizens do not have a choice to decide who they want to be their leader. Those who disagree with the dictator are killed. Such ruler does not have to answer to anybody or to the state?s court of law, for in a totalitarian regime, the leader is above the law (http://www.comptons.com/). He may change the laws at any time to facilitate the achievement of his goals. The law is not binding to him, but rather it is a tool at the dictator?s disposal to use as he sees fit. This powerful instrument is used to exert control over the lifestyles of the citizens.
When a totalitarian government comes into power, all legal, social and political, traditions are swept away (http://www.britannica.com/). Religion, if not banned entirely, is kept under tight control. The government censors the media and commands all means of communication. Traditional social institutions and organizations are discouraged or restricted. For example, the North Korean government controlled the amount of crops produced on every farm, the type of housing units in which each family lived and censored all literary and artistic materials (http://www.comptons.com/). Participation in government controlled organizations becomes mandatory. This is the state?s method to transform the innermost character of the citizens. Diversity and individualism are made to disappear and are replaced by mass conformity to the beliefs and behaviors recognized by the state.
In addition to the changes made to the social system, a totalitarian government also uses violence to keep people under control. It kills anyone who disagrees with or challenges the power of the state (http://www.britannica.com/). An essential component to these regimes is a secret police force used to eliminate anyone who is suspected of being a threat to the authority of the state. Such unrestrained police terrorism is also used against certain groups of people and is justified by the pursuit of the state?s goals. Persecution of this kind occurred in Germany where Hitler tried to exterminate all Jews, and used the SS to terrorize the German people. Furthermore, in the Soviet Union, Stalin ordered the execution of all of the government officials who had originally brought him to power (http://www.pagesz.net/). Moreover, by using civilian spies, the Stalinist government created so much distrust for each other amongst its citizens that the formation of any underground organizations was prevented (http://www.pagesz.net/). The operations of the police in a totalitarian regime are often unpredictable and do not follow any procedures in accordance with the law. Such police violence creates a sense of terror in all citizens and further represses any dissent towards the government.
Another effective way in which a totalitarian government controls its citizens is by using propaganda. The government appeals to an emotional rather than rational side of its citizens. It explains everything in terms of the goal. It makes the goal appear to be attainable, and often falsifies data in order to make it seem like the economy is growing and that tremendous progress has been made. Through propaganda, a totalitarian government always tries to rationalize its ideas and gives the appearance that it has the best interests of the public in mind (http://www.uta.edu). By using this influential tool, Hitler convinced the public that elections were not necessary. More importantly, he used propaganda to incite hatred for Jews amongst the German people (http://www.pagesz.net/). Propaganda also served to encourage the practice of worshipping their leaders. In Germany, Hitler staged elaborate rallies in order to arouse nationalistic fervor among the German people and to deify himself in their eyes. Propaganda is yet another useful tactic the totalitarian government employs in order to rule unopposed.
Totalitarianism is a calculated attempt at removing individuality and free thought. Propaganda serves to dangerously sway the opinions of citizens to that of the regime. The exertion of complete control over all aspects of personal and social life causes total domination by the government. State terror is used to instill fear in its people, which discourages resistance and leaves no choice but to comply with its code. By using this formula for oppression, totalitarian regimes have been able to thrive temporarily throughout history. Their success has resulted in the loss of millions of lives and extreme violations of human rights. It is ironic how what may initially be regarded as the savior to a downtrodden society ends up being its ultimate downfall.
?Totalitarianism.? Compton?s Encyclopedia Online. Internet
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?The Age of Totalitarianism: Stalin and Hitler.? Internet. 2000. (25 Oct 2000).
?Totalitarianism.? Encyclopedia Britannica. Internet. (25 Oct 2000).
Kellner, Douglas. ?From 1984 to One-Dimensional Man: Critical Reflections on Orwell and Marcuse.? Internet. 1997.
(25 Oct 2000).
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