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 Hannah Arendt and totalitarism

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Fri 03 Feb 2017, 22:06

I entered the day before yesterday occasionally a film in the middel of the footage concerning Hannah Arendt and totalitarism:
As it was not available in Belgium from ARTE I found it nevertheless back on the internet:
Hannah Arendt On the duty of civil disobedience


I can give it also in German for Nielsen...
I also looked at the film about  her life I think from 2012


Before I comment the documentary I did also some research about Hannah Arendt...I still remember from the old BBC board that she was mentioned between Karl Popper, Heidegger and all that...I was always a bit circumspect with all this stuff...while I had the impression that with "philosophers" in a discussion one has never a "right end"...at the end...
I have even the same impression of Hannah Arendt...although if I understand her well...in certain fields I can follow her...as our personal thinking and the dialogue with ourself...
And here in this film it is even worser...I find not always logic in it...and in the several examples as for instance the Ukrainian revolution, the Egyptian Springtime I have a lot to critique...aren't they usurpating Arendt's thoughts?...only the episode of the occupation by Israelian colonists of Palestine farmers' ground seem consistent with what Hannah Arendt stood for...I critizise also the difficult approach and random touch of problems which can be discussed in a logical and coherent way...(perhaps we need the Nordmann approach Wink )


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08c2ljg


The origins of totalitarism by Hannah Arendts 1962
https://monoskop.org/images/4/4e/Arendt_Hannah_The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism_1962.pdf


Tomorrow more comments.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 04 Feb 2017, 22:01

Perhaps first some comments of episodes of the film where the civil disobedience is so to say sparked following the thougths of Hannah Arendt...I see it rather as followers of the "Hannah Arendt religion" and perhaps she is also misinterpreted as with other religions also happens...?
First episode: the Ukrainian revolution...
From what I read it was not only the displeasure about the corruption and the totalitarian rule in the country, but also a strong ultra jingoist nationalism, which was against the Russians and which had its roots from WWII and before with the UNO UPA and all that. In such atmoshphere difficult to make reasonable talks...?
Second episode: the Israëli colonians taking illegaly land from the Palestinians on the West Bank.
I found it nevertheless still a plus for the Israeli constitunial state that an Israeli against the occupation could discuss with a colonist on the site of delict about the delict...and that without shooting at each other...
But then the opposant says in the documentary that he will not serve in the Israeli army because it represents all what the colonists did. In my opinion that was a wrong reasoning...if he wanted to turn the situation he had to persuade other Israeli to vote for candidates in the parliement, which could at the end turn this situation...? And the situation of the Israeli state is perhaps that special, that if they (and that is now not about the colonists, but about the situation in the Israeli state, whit the Arab minority, which are also Israeli...if they let augment that minority till it becomes a majority, as this minority has demands till now, which are completely against the values of the Jewish majority. Not easy to find an equilibrium in such a delicate question I presume.
Third episode: the Arabic springtime.
In my opinion there comes a lot from the uneasy of a population because the society turns not well and there is no bread on the shelf (not able to end the meets).
From what I read that was one of the reasons of the French revolution and also the one of the first Russian Menshevic revolution, (before the Bolshevic one)...but these broad people's mass movements were "guided" by populist arrivists or by exalted theorists, to channels, which had many times nothing to do with the starting point.
Even due to most historians now: when the worldwide money crisis hadn't happened and had hurted especially Germany that was so linked to the American capital, there would be no possibilty from Hitler to came to power, while the German population became again on ease and the Nazi party had their deepest low, even that Hitler thought that he was finished...
Some preliminary thoughts about the question...
And I am aware that only Meles meles perhaps understands French enough to comment the documentary as only Nielsen here understand German enough to comment this documentary...

Tomorrow more about what an individu could do before the Nazi regime came to full power and what a population could do...and what I would have done in that particular situation...and perhaps the point of view of Hannah Arendt, if it is not too "ambiguous"...

Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sun 05 Feb 2017, 13:56

Arendt's book on totalitarianism (and thanks for the link) was once rather a standard text to read in political science studies, and it must be 40 years since I came across it, so it was fun to read it again online with the benefit of even more hindsight. Although it reflects views which were current in the 50s and 60s, and therefore failed completely to anticipate our current era of superfluity (as she called it) having become a prevalent political ethos regardless of system and not just a factor explaining absence of ethos, it still makes a lot of sense and still provides some interesting insights into how German society in particular descended to the depraved depths National Socialism dragged it.

I watched the documentary, but even with my admittedly poor French it was almost as if the participants and makers of the programme had read a different book to the one I had.

Arendt frequently emphasised her view that it was not a question of obedience or disobedience among the civil population that decided any society's descent into totalitarianism but one of complacency, distraction, or preoccupation with more fundamental survival issues. By the time politically motivated civil disobedience manifests itself in opposition to any budding totalitarian power it is normally already too late to be effective in changing that society's trajectory. This seems to have been lost on those who made and featured in the film.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sun 05 Feb 2017, 21:05

nordmann wrote:
Arendt's book on totalitarianism (and thanks for the link) was once rather a standard text to read in political science studies, and it must be 40 years since I came across it, so it was fun to read it again online with the benefit of even more hindsight. Although it reflects views which were current in the 50s and 60s, and therefore failed completely to anticipate our current era of superfluity (as she called it) having become a prevalent political ethos regardless of system and not just a factor explaining absence of ethos, it still makes a lot of sense and still provides some interesting insights into how German society in particular descended to the depraved depths National Socialism dragged it.

I watched the documentary, but even with my admittedly poor French it was almost as if the participants and makers of the programme had read a different book to the one I had.

Arendt frequently emphasised her view that it was not a question of obedience or disobedience among the civil population that decided any society's descent into totalitarianism but one of complacency, distraction, or preoccupation with more fundamental survival issues. By the time politically motivated civil disobedience manifests itself in opposition to any budding totalitarian power it is normally already too late to be effective in changing that society's trajectory. This seems to have been lost on those who made and featured in the film.

Nordmann,

thank you so much for your reaction. It ranks completely in the range of thoughts I made myself. Having always not that much time, (and even wasting my precious time with the in depth covering for Vizzer of the place of the adjective in French, language. Perhaps I will need it once to explain it to a Frenchman, as they don't always know why it is one time here and one time there Wink . even for a Frenchman!) I will nevertheles sstart to read the Arendt book as seemingly you did...

"Arendt frequently emphasised her view that it was not a question of obedience or disobedience among the civil population that decided any society's descent into totalitarianism but one of complacency, distraction, or preoccupation with more fundamental survival issues. By the time politically motivated civil disobedience manifests itself in opposition to any budding totalitarian power it is normally already too late to be effective in changing that society's trajectory."

That was I wanted nearly to expose today as my own view, if I had been a contemporary of those times. Arendt, seems to have had a realistic view on the events. But if I have time I will later expand on this matter...

"and therefore failed completely to anticipate our current era of superfluity (as she called it) having become a prevalent political ethos regardless of system and not just a factor explaining absence of ethos,"

Nordmann, are you hinting here on the "consumption society" or did I misunderstand you? If it is about the "consumption society", I have also a lot to say about it in the frame of totalitarism...a society in disturbance because of the lack of "ease" and a society pampering it self in relative comfort even with a "certain" Wink  "ethos" Wink ...

Further tomorrow...

Kind regards and with esteem for a consistent and knowledgeable contributor,

Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 06 Feb 2017, 08:17

"Superfluous" people are those who cannot influence or benefit from big initiatives that move societies in any direction, according to Arendt. For her it was a regrettable but unavoidable aspect to civilisation, and one which totalitarian regimes manipulated or at least utilised to their own ends. According to Arendt however it took a totalitarian regime to "impose" superfluity, and to a 1950s observer of recent history such was exactly how it seemed to be. We know different these days, and in fact we can even see historical parallels of what might be called "voluntary superfluity" in many societies over the centuries.

The consumer society is one small aspect to it - in that it could be classed as the successful deployment of a huge distraction which keeps the general population at a remove from the actual political process while they obsess with small material acquisitions. However the voluntary abandonment of common standards by which we judge truth, morality, justice and even success and failure is probably a clearer indication of how this process of assigned superfluity actually impacts on civilisation, and recent events such as those in the US have served only to crystallise the visibility of the process in action.

But I am with Arendt on this one. When you look past the implicit racism and limited temporal context of her various analyses (her history of Southern Africa after European involvement is both brilliant and dangerously racist in modern eyes) she nailed the historical process pretty accurately, I thought. As she did also with German society, being one of only a few in her time who dared look for the root of the rise of National Socialism in that society right back to the state's nascent political forms, rooted themselves in what was then an ascendant early nationalism which was replacing old systems and structures but which itself wasn't fully understood in terms of what advantages it might confer, even by its advocates.

She placed rather more emphasis on antisemitism than we would today, again due to her particular historical perspective at that time, but her analysis of this also ranks as one of the most intelligent that one can read, and if you follow her analysis of Jewry in Europe over the centuries you can also see exactly how she came to regard superfluity as one of the most previously underrated political forces exerted within society in terms of consequence. I can remember after reading this the first time round consciously checking myself whenever any group in society, for whatever reason, was presented in discussion primarily as a "minority". Society is run and driven by minorities, and often moreover minorities who fear other minorities the most, not the superfluous majority. It is a valuable thing to know.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 06 Feb 2017, 14:21

Surely all change is brought about by a minority  who in the slipstream of their dedication  carry along with them globs of the dense superfluous masses. And if that group gets to the top of the heap then of course they will keep a weather eye out for any other minority that might ferment a similar groundswell.
Could it be otherwise?  This may have been a smart observation she made but any one with a gleam of ambition and the nounce to see it through in any sphere has known this forever. I know my simplifications often rankle so now launch in.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 06 Feb 2017, 14:45

I obviously didn't represent her definition as exactly as I might have. Best advice is to try reading her book and then see if your observation still applies.

Superfluity is as it applies to the process, not the power, per se. The most powerful people themselves can prove to be superfluous, something else we have noticed in our lifetimes (and with increasing regularity).
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 06 Feb 2017, 14:59

Mmmmm - but that means that the really most powerful is more powerful than the most powerful.....hmmm?
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 06 Feb 2017, 15:28

Not sure that follows, no. Actual power as invested in individuals may not be the most powerful force driving any society at any one time, and in fact normally isn't. The totalitarian state however assumes this always to be the case, and in many ways can actually make it apply in a very real political sense, but in doing so inevitably exposes society to vulnerabilities it often cannot surmount and as a result entire societies can end up broken by this intervention, sometimes irretrievably.

But you have to remember she was writing at a time when this had just transpired in very visible and catastrophic circumstances, and in many ways was still continuing in that form in the Soviet Union. Her cleverness was not in her prognostication but in her analysis of how things had ended up as they did. In many ways her view of the future was gloomy, despite the optimism rampant in post-war society regarding new directions and the like, and in many other ways she wasn't quite gloomy enough as it turned out. Her identification of the actual processes which drive society were in fact even more accurate than she had feared. If you read what she wrote about Cecil Rhodes and what he represented (something she supposed was safely in the past tense) you'll see what I mean. We're all Rhodesians these days.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Tue 07 Feb 2017, 10:51

id est read the book, woman. I had better do so. Not feeling comfortable being labelled a Rhodesian so I had better find out why it is possible......  an enigmatic remark, if ever.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Tue 07 Feb 2017, 14:43

Well, I've just ordered the book - I can't cope with reading things online. It should arrive tomorrow and I'll get cracking on it. Going to be heavy going I suspect, but I rather think it should be required reading for us all in these interesting times.

Paul has given this link above, but people may not have realised it was to the excellent BBC In Our Time programme on Hannah Arendt which was broadcast only last week.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08c2ljg

The Guardian also offered this article at the beginning of February:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/01/totalitarianism-in-age-donald-trump-lessons-from-hannah-arendt-protests

I am struggling to get my head around the superfluity idea - back later when I've read a bit more.

I find it interesting that Arendt's doctoral thesis was on Saint Augustine's concept of love (Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin: Versuch einer philosophischen Interpretation (de) (On the concept of love in the thought of Saint Augustine: Attempt at a philosophical interpretation). Ah, the idea of love in Christian thought - the value and worth of every individual soul - is just what totalitarian regimes cannot bear. Extermination is not so important as the relentless dehumanising of people. It is evil in its absolute, diabolical purity and essence - the very opposite of love.

I cannot believe Arendt fell for Martin Heidegger, but she did, declaring, “But I love him! But he’s a Nazi. But I love him!”  Worrying shades of Sylvia Plath there:

“Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.”



PS Thanks to Paul for starting an important thread.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Wed 08 Feb 2017, 19:48

Sweet sister (the Elisabeth I type),

"Paul has given this link above, but people may not have realised it was to the excellent BBC In Our Time programme on Hannah Arendt which was broadcast only last week.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08c2ljg"

I mentioned this link in my first message and wanted to elaborate on it, but had first to listen to it and still reading the "totalitarian book" online...but always that lack of time...for instance yesterday evening dinner with former daughter-in-law and granddaughter back from a six months' New York and too much weight this morning for the kidney dialysis...and sans rancune...you can't read it all...

Your devoted brother, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Thu 09 Feb 2017, 10:22

Good Lord, I didn't know I had a brother, devoted or otherwise!

The book won't arrive for weeks apparently - there has been a sudden rush of orders. And there was me assuming the postman would bring it today. So much for Amazon Prime! Not their fault, of course. I'm going to try the library, but will probably have to wait for ages unless Exeter has it hidden away in their stack.

In the last resort I'll read it online, but I do find that irritating at the best of times and this is going to be a very difficult text to plough through. Hope you comment on the programme soon, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Thu 09 Feb 2017, 10:38

Actually "Brother Paul" has a certain inevitability about it, doesn't it? I'm seeing him as Cadfael now ...

Arendt's book is very out of date, Temp, and is no longer the standard text it once was as a result. I sincerely hope you're not too disappointed when you eventually receive a copy. Quite a lot has happened in the intervening 50 years to call into question her assumptions about just where centuries of anti-semitism had left "normal" Jewish political feeling, for example, regarding their European heritage. The Soviet Union, her benchmark for "modern" totalitarianism, is now but a memory and superseded in every respect by models she had never envisaged, and her final few chapters - which were themselves added in a second edition when events so quickly seemed to call the first edition into question - can almost be skipped over altogether. We now know that US foreign policy of the era was a mixture of blundering, almost evil interventionism, and about as intelligently coordinated as an Ed Balls grande cabriole.

It is her insight into how power is traditionally misrepresented and misunderstood, even often by those who wield it, that is refreshing to read. Cecil Rhodes ended up as a perfect example historically of when a simple lust for power or riches cannot fully explain the process as embodied in that one individual, and in how so drastically therefore seemingly unconnected power structures are radically altered in their wake. Hence my point above.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Fri 10 Feb 2017, 21:41

Nordmann,

read now for the second time the ten first pages of the book
The origins of totalitarism by Hannah Arendts 1962
https://monoskop.org/images/4/4e/Arendt_Hannah_The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism_1962.pdf


I nearly find not that much to agree with...sigh...
What I seem to understand that Hannah is seeing the "antisemitism of the Nazis as "the" cause of WWII...?
I read in the time about pre 1933 antisemitism in Germany:
https://www.amazon.com/Pity-All-Portrait-German-Jewish-1743-1933/dp/0312422814
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amos_Elon
https://www.amazon.com/Gold-Iron-Bismark-Bleichroder-Building/dp/0394740343
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Stern


In my humble opinion there was more at stake than only the Jews. They were the obvious target because they were that prominent present in the "German nation" and were linked with the rest of the world, where they were also prominent present.
But at the core the Nazist "nationalism" was based on the "volk" in the 19th century romantistic view, it was enlarged with the 19th century so-called neo-darwinism as to the preeminence of the "Herrenvolk" with a lot of mythical balderdash from "nordic" races and all that and with the theories of a de Lapouge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Vacher_de_Lapouge and all that it came to the idea of Volksreinheit not besmirched by Jews, Gypsies and other intolerable elements as mental disabled ones...
A second element was that the Germans needed "Lebensraum" for their Herrenvolk and that they wanted to establish that in the East, Poland the Soviet Union and all as overthere there lived only "second rang" people, who had to serve for the greater benefit of "Herren"...and for that the Nazis had to "dehumanize" the German Jews to be able to better alienate them and it was also handy that all riches could be stripped of them...and that in continental Europe...Britain could remain master of the high seas, as after all they were also a Nordic race...and again in my humble opinion the Nazis seem not to have had a "worldview" at least not for the immediate future...after the incorporation of Russia...

Thinking about all that I see nowadays tendencies of new "nationalism"..."own "volk" first"...dehumanizing of other population groups in the own national entity as people with another culture and belief, "volksvreemde" (foreign to the authochtone population, (des hommes de souche)) elements...as Muslims and all that...

That for today...tomorrow further...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Fri 10 Feb 2017, 22:33

Paul wrote:
I nearly find not that much to agree with...sigh...
What I seem to understand that Hannah is seeing the "antisemitism of the Nazis as "the" cause of WWII...?

Not my impression at all - she concentrated on antisemitism in the book as, according to peers with whom she disagreed, it was popularly seen at the time as a so-called important "enabler" of German fascism and a vital key therefore to the rise of totalitarianism in that state. Her aim however was to show that it was neither a prime enabler nor a symptom confined simply to that regime but signified quite a different aspect to power which undue attention to how Nazis viewed and utilised it tended to disguise. She does a very good job in fact in showing how it existed causally and in eodem tempore as a phenomenon with roots and expressions far outside of Nazi control, even despite their own propaganda claims, and indeed states several times that anyone subsequently trying to use it as an avenue towards understanding German totalitarianism was going up a blind alley. Quite the opposite to what you have deduced, I think.

Your other point about the "volk"mentality and "über nationalism" etc is something she also addresses several times in her book, but again not to present these as specifically German causes or features of the rise of Nazism, but to expose their pan-European evolution over time which, in effect, would have made it all the more remarkable had Germans, of all people, not succumbed in terms of critical mass to any propaganda based on the premises of which these concepts are inherent components. In fact in the sphere of the politics of persuasion through such appeal to base and simplistic notions the Nazis weren't even much good at it - others in Europe and elsewhere did a much more thorough job, often by being more subtle in their style and publicly vague in their stated intent. Being effectively the most visibly inhumane and overtly totalitarian regime did not necessarily make Nazis the originators or even masters of their own propaganda, something of which antisemitism was certainly a major part, and nor were the people they governed necessarily the most persuaded by such propaganda either. However compliant the general German population  - with no little justification - can be accused of having been, it is also true that the most astute and vociferous refutations of Nazi propaganda originated first from within the societies it targeted, and some of this refutation pointedly avoided any antisemitism at its presumed core. For Arendt this demonstrates a more accurate depiction of the real social dynamic within German society of the period, and one which an undue concentration on antisemitism will distort in retrospect.

Her point was that an accusation of an obnoxious set of shared values cannot simply be levelled in hindsight against the Germans, or indeed any other persons living within a totalitarian state, without also recognising some very obvious imposition of values being evident too, and often imposed with a force so ruthless that it is hard to know who within that society could not be described themselves in some way as victims. And in some instances, particularly in Germany where it in fact frequently epitomised totalitarianism during that era, officially stated "values" did not even have to be imposed at all but simply asserted as universal whether they were or not, with the confident assumption by the regime that gainsay could be ignored - something which, if such is judged an archetypal totalitarian trait, therefore makes the USA one of the most consistently totalitarian countries in modern history. When gainsay is successfully ignored for long enough - through force or obduracy - the effect is often that it transmutes into something quite new or simply disappears, and when that happens the outcome is not always as envisaged by the wielder of political power who originally chose to ignore it. In such a complex and unpredictable dynamic who is to say whose will has actually prevailed? In other words, where was the actual power being exercised in that process at any point and by whom?

In Arendt's book the point is repeatedly made that there is an inadequacy in any analysis which avoids addressing these aspects to how nominal notions of power are divorced from the "realpolitik" that actually pertains, even when that essentially nominal power is being ruthlessly exercised within a political framework so that it is anything but nominal for those at the receiving end, totalitarianism being just an extreme example of this being done. The German death and labour camps were symptomatic of a regime which had chosen in fact not to engage in a relationship of any description with the forces of "realpolitik" at all but to step outside the paradigm altogether, a place where they assumed no social constraint could be applied to them on any grounds whatsoever and in which the moral, legal and innate social forces through which power is normally justified simply did not exist for them at all. In doing so they initially felt obliged to redefine these concepts in ways that they could use to self-justify their actions, but after a while and having encountered too many contradictions even within their own imposed logic they ceased even to do this much - in fact it was not unknown even for earlier apologists for the regime to end up being incarcerated in these very camps themselves or otherwise violently removed, so arbitrary and indiscriminate had the term "opposition" become when what was being opposed had itself abandoned definition. They were proving that power at least temporarily could be expressed outside the traditional paradigm, but in stepping outside it had ultimately weakened their chances of sustaining power, or even of defining it any longer. History shows such regimes inevitably succumb, if not to external forces intent on removing this nihilist threat to the paradigm, then to their own lack of a feasible substitute for established mores and rules which ultimately renders their alternative to society a sterile proposition and impossible to govern meaningfully in the long term. They had side-stepped power in reality, in particular the power to sustain a society, not actually controlled such power at all.

Arendt insisted that power, to be understood, must not be defined purely in a narrow political sense, and that Nazi Germany was just one spectacular and horrifying proof of why such analytically inadequate presumptions are as dangerously faulty as the regimes which invest faith in them. And of course one of the first presumptions exposed as bogus once one applies "proper" analysis is that of the nation itself, along therefore with all those terms normally prefaced with the adjective "national". Even democracy, when it too is established with these presumptions at its core, is equally suspect as a valid representation of what is really happening with regard to where power is invested, how it is exerted, and to what end it works. These were brave and very unique views at the time she wrote them, though had she lived to see what has developed subsequently she could have been forgiven the odd "I told you so", I think.

In her day she was either regarded as a very intelligent "revisionist" with something very valid, if hyperbolic, to say therefore about post-war development and where it might lead us all (for example she predicted quite emphatically how these premises would manifest anew and re-establish themselves in the future, precisely because people foolishly chose to pretend they had been expunged by the war and its catastrophic impact), or else she was openly despised as being almost an apologist for German barbarism and inhumanity in that she stubbornly persisted in viewing their allegedly "unique" experience as simply one facet of what was by her time a globally detectable trend in many quite readily visible manifestations and with quite obvious and ancient roots in European history.

Had she been presented with the opinions as expressed by you above she would probably have said they were simplistic but understandable, though she would have referred you to the many times she also advised people against falling into the trap of assuming that divisions and distinctions between groups, and the criteria by which these are judged and expressed - by both critics and supporters of such division - reflect a "reality" in which the power paradigm is obvious. The point of her book was to show that it is not obvious at all, and that totalitarianism will in fact constantly re-emerge in some form as long as the false paradigm is still generally held as valid and as the only one in which real power over people can be understood. One cannot really challenge or discredit, let alone fully understand, this paradigm based on analysis of contemporary affairs alone, but only with a strong sense of historiographical analysis brought to bear on the events which preceded those in which we find ourselves at any one time, the longer and wider the scope of that research the better.

The key to understanding the present or shaping the future lies in first understanding the past, but for Arendt while this simple statement was essentially true it was also inadequate. If Santayana's maxim was "those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it", Arendt's was that even those who remember it will also repeat it, unless they also understand the constraints within which that memory functions.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 11 Feb 2017, 20:20

Nordmann,

"Not my impression at all - she concentrated on antisemitism in the book as, according to peers with whom she disagreed, it was popularly seen at the time as a so-called important "enabler" of German fascism and a vital key therefore to the rise of totalitarianism in that state. Her aim however was to show that it was neither a prime enabler nor a symptom confined simply to that regime but signified quite a different aspect to power which undue attention to how Nazis viewed and utilised it tended to disguise. She does a very good job in fact in showing how it existed causally and in eodem tempore as a phenomenon with roots and expressions far outside of Nazi control, even despite their own propaganda claims, and indeed states several times that anyone subsequently trying to use it as an avenue towards understanding German totalitarianism was going up a blind alley. Quite the opposite to what you have deduced, I think.

Your other point about the "volk"mentality and "über nationalism" etc is something she also addresses several times in her book, but again not to present these as specifically German causes or features of the rise of Nazism, but to expose their pan-European evolution over time which, in effect, would have made it all the more remarkable had Germans, of all people, not succumbed in terms of critical mass to any propaganda based on the premises of which these concepts are inherent components. In fact in the sphere of the politics of persuasion through such appeal to base and simplistic notions the Nazis weren't even much good at it - others in Europe and elsewhere did a much more thorough job, often by being more subtle in their style and publicly vague in their stated intent. Being effectively the most visibly inhumane and overtly totalitarian regime did not necessarily make Nazis the originators or even masters of their own propaganda, something of which antisemitism was certainly a major part, and nor were the people they governed necessarily the most persuaded by such propaganda either. However compliant the general German population  - with no little justification - can be accused of having been, it is also true that the most astute and vociferous refutations of Nazi propaganda originated first from within the societies it targeted, and some of this refutation pointedly avoided any antisemitism at its presumed core. For Arendt this demonstrates a more accurate depiction of the real social dynamic within German society of the period, and one which an undue concentration on antisemitism will distort in retrospect."

"peers" yes as she said as if it was a "new" antisemitism, not 1. the antisemitism deduced from "nationalism", 2. the "ewige Jude", the eternal scapegoat for centuries departing from the Roman-Christian times...
She says on page VIII of the preface:
In this sense, it must be possible to face and understand the outrageous fact that so small (and, in world politics, so unimportant) a phenomenon as the Jewish Question and antisemitism could become the catalytic agent for first, the Nazi movement, then a world war, and finally the establishment of death factories."
Further she says in Chapter one: Antisemitism as an outrage to Common Sense.
page 4
"The failure to take seriously what the Nazis themselves said is comprehensible enough. There is hardly an aspect of contemporary history more irritating and mystifying than the fact that of all the great unsolved political questions of our century, it should have been this seemingly small and unimportant jewish problem that had the dubious honor (its American) of setting the whole infernal machine in motion. Such discrepancies between cause and effect outrage our common sense to say nothing of the historian's sense of balance and harmony"
I still find that she goes in the "mist" further in her page 5 and 6...
Although I agree about her "arbitrariness of terror" both in the Nazi and Soviet system.

"that a phenomenon as the Jewish Question and antisemitism could become the catalytic agent for first, the Nazi movement, then a world war"
In my opinion the Jewish Question and antisemitism was not the catalytic agent of the Nazi movement and certainly not of WWII...

"There is hardly an aspect of contemporary history more irritating and mystifying than the fact that of all the great unsolved political questions of our century, it should have been this seemingly small and unimportant jewish problem that had the dubious honor (its American) of setting the whole infernal machine in motion. Such discrepancies between cause and effect outrage our common sense to say nothing of the historian's sense of balance and harmony"

"...of setting the whole infernal machine in motion. Such discrepancies between cause and effect outrage our common sense to say nothing of the historian's sense of balance and harmony"

"discrepancy between cause and effect" It is a sad thing to have to admit that such discrepancies seem to be of all times and yes perhaps more in recent times (although it is now with the modern "openess" of the massmedia not easy to cover (to mask) it all) than in ancient times. I followed the Pol Pot story from the beginning and once the "executives" were convinced of their "right" the gates were open of all the horror that lays hidden in the human mind...only to cite one example...
I read about the Jewish progrom in Antwerp during WWII with the Germans not interfering, the Belgian police also not...the hatred of the local Antwerp Flemish population against the Jews, their former neighbours...if those from Antwerp had been Germans from the greater Nazi Reich they would have been no better than those Germans from within...the same for the hatred between Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the Jugoslavian civil war...those with a Serb cross on the gate were spared by the Serbs, while those without cross were executed...and the Croats did the same, as did Albanians against the Serbs...


"Your other point about the "volk"mentality and "über nationalism" etc is something she also addresses several times in her book, but again not to present these as specifically German causes or features of the rise of Nazism, but to expose their pan-European evolution over time which, in effect, would have made it all the more remarkable had Germans, of all people, not succumbed in terms of critical mass to any propaganda based on the premises of which these concepts are inherent components. In fact in the sphere of the politics of persuasion through such appeal to base and simplistic notions the Nazis weren't even much good at it - others in Europe and elsewhere did a much more thorough job, often by being more subtle in their style and publicly vague in their stated intent. Being effectively the most visibly inhumane and overtly totalitarian regime did not necessarily make Nazis the originators or even masters of their own propaganda, something of which antisemitism was certainly a major part, and nor were the people they governed necessarily the most persuaded by such propaganda either."

I don't say that the "volk" mentality and "über nationalism" etc is specific to the Germans, but from what I read about the mentality of for instance France and Britain, and perhaps most France in the 19th century there was quite a difference of the "volkish" German mentality and the French one...the French, even the French "de souche", not afraid of "contaminating" their "volk" with other non caucasian ones...or "thoughts" from these non-caucasian ones?

And yes perhaps I misinterpret many trends as I am still not used to the complex sentences and paragraphs of philosophers...I always trying to be as "straigthforward" as possible Wink ...I remember a lol beeble from our old BBC board as using also such "complex" paragraphs...


Some difficult words I encountered in your paragraphs:
epitomized-characterized?
gainsay- archaic or literary:to deny, contradict
paradigm- pattern, model

That for today Nordmann, see you tomorrow...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 11 Feb 2017, 21:47

Hi Paul, I think you need to get a bit further into the book, to where she explains why "this seemingly small and unimportant question" was actually anything but, especially when looked at it in terms of the evolution of power in Europe over the preceding centuries. When it comes to the "volk" point I also think you'll find it interesting too, especially when she points out how it culminated in a situation where those clamouring loudest for a non-contaminated racial gene pool were not only often "contaminants" themselves by their own criteria, but also actually enacted legislation and started programmes designed to replace "German" genes with "purer" genes from elsewhere.

These, and other examples she presents, specifically show the disparity between what is averred and how things really must be - and why, since the definition of power as traditionally understood follows the former rather than the latter, it is therefore time we owned up to the error and thought again.

Where I come from "gainsay" is neither archaic nor especially literary, and "paradigm" means something a little more complex than a mere pattern. If we ever resume this debate over a few pints of Guinness in a Dublin pub with some local patrons bear this in mind. There's nothing more frustrating than being gainsaid by fellow drinkers operating within their own paradigm, especially after the third pint.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Thu 16 Feb 2017, 20:51

nordmann wrote:
Hi Paul, I think you need to get a bit further into the book, to where she explains why "this seemingly small and unimportant question" was actually anything but, especially when looked at it in terms of the evolution of power in Europe over the preceding centuries. When it comes to the "volk" point I also think you'll find it interesting too, especially when she points out how it culminated in a situation where those clamouring loudest for a non-contaminated racial gene pool were not only often "contaminants" themselves by their own criteria, but also actually enacted legislation and started programmes designed to replace "German" genes with "purer" genes from elsewhere.

These, and other examples she presents, specifically show the disparity between what is averred and how things really must be - and why, since the definition of power as traditionally understood follows the former rather than the latter, it is therefore time we owned up to the error and thought again.

Where I come from "gainsay" is neither archaic nor especially literary, and "paradigm" means something a little more complex than a mere pattern. If we ever resume this debate over a few pints of Guinness in a Dublin pub with some local patrons bear this in mind. There's nothing more frustrating than being gainsaid by fellow drinkers operating within their own paradigm, especially after the third pint.

Cheers

Nordmann, you can be right if you further read the book. And yes still reading "the book", each evening a bit...you have to have patience with me...

Your dedicated Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 20 Feb 2017, 19:45

Yet reached page 179 of the book.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Tue 21 Feb 2017, 21:30

Now on page 268 of Hannah Arendt; The origins of totalitarism Starting chapter nine: The decline of the Nation-State.
Some preliminary comments.
She seems to make a difference between Britain and the Continent in the might of the parties vis à vis the state...even after WWII...
I studied the interwar period now for some 12 years (for the different history fora)...and I don't see such a difference between Britain and the Continent.
She starts to make a difference between a "party" and a "movement" which is above the parties. A movement in her concept then a "religion as a mass movement"?
She speaks also continously about the "mob"...I think I understand her...in Dutch one would translate it as the "gepeupel" (the undermost of the people), but I think it is more meant as: the man in the street?, the common man?, the masses?

Nevertheless from all what I read she provides a fresh and thought-provoking insight in all interwar history and even prolong it to the period immediately after WWII.

Yes these interwar feelings are never far away...as the inefficiency of the party system, which by their coalitions (yes I agree more on the Continent) provides the government (but after all it are we who are voting to elect these party members to become a government)...
I give an example from my inner circle: the problem: the ring around Antwerp to have to be closed by a new construction...will it a tunnel or a bridge or tunnels and bridges...all worth milliards of pounds, euros...endless discussions from the politics, the lobbies and the Green ones...
Now the one from my inner circle...that's the rotten partycracy...never straightforward decisions...we need a strong personality to direct a decision above all parties...and that would certainly speed up the work with lesser cost and much quicker...
A predecessor of a new totalitarian "movement" inciting for direct rule without too much interference from the lobbies, the parties, the masses...and brought into existence by the stupidity of these masses?
No democracy is never an easy exercise and it makes decisions after lengthy "palavers"(palavers), "gebabbel"(babble); but at the end these decision making which has a high cost is perhaps to prefer to a hasty one side decision as it has at the end after discussed nearly to dead has the advantage to be supported by broader layers of the population while they felt asked for their opinion and see it as an ultime compromise...

Participating in a thread on Historum about the European Union (so vilified I suppose by English supporters of the Brexit)...about the incompetence of the European institutions and all that...and the difficulty in decision making...yes the old hydra of the totalitarian state is again emerging or has again more supporters...? And yes where is it better than in that same Europe, where there was, even against all doom assumptions, never such a prosperous society even quite nivelating. But some say that there is an ever growing gap between the haves and the have nots, but these have nots are still better than those before them, but it is only the feeling that they not participate in the "abundance" that let them envy the "haves"? Even the minimum subsistance wage from the state for the have nots even better than ever before...?

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Wed 22 Feb 2017, 13:32

Paul wrote:
Nevertheless from all what I read she provides a fresh and thought-provoking insight in all interwar history and even prolong it to the period immediately after WWII.

I agree, and it is this that marked her out at the time. She challenged the then very popular consensus that somehow the German defeat had written a line under totalitarianism in Europe, a view she saw as being not only wishful thinking in essence but also based on a very flawed analysis of the actual forces at work which had culminated in that particularly dark period of European politics. More than simply flawed, she also saw this reticence to examine the phenomenon in its full historical context as evidence for the fact that those who wield power, and many who acquiesce in that system, have a vested interest in pursuing quasi-totalitarian methods and policies themselves, so therefore have an equally vested interest in encouraging a false interpretation of what is essentially a non-democratic and near to totalitarian system. Her fundamental point was that totalitarianism as manifested under fascist dictatorships in the 20th century was merely a novel form of how power actually always has worked, with the new twist that fear alone, if everything was prosecuted on that basis by the authority, quickly removed the need to elucidate actual policies, whether sensible or not, and ultimately led to a complete failure to adopt or implement social policy at all. It was a travesty of what she would have called "actual" totalitarianism, a primary feature of political power though normally well disguised in descriptions of politics for general public consumption.

Her later book "On Revolution" compared the American and French revolutions and used them to indicate just what this translates into in the real world. Both were inspired by and fought over very similar enlightenment aims of egalitarianism and democratic representation etc. However one succeeded more or less in its stated aims whereas the other proved a catalyst for French society to enter into a prolonged and bloody cycle of subsequent political catastrophe in which, she reckoned, the public basically received a form of the egalitarian representation the revolutionaries had promised but with successive bouts of anarchic mayhem which demanded a huge price from the population on each occasion, and left them successively closer to what - in terms of the investment of actual power - was a system not a million miles away from the originally abolished monarchy in effect. France, unlike the USA, could never quite escape its European context. Maybe had she lived until today she might have revised her opinion of the USA having actually escaped that context itself - present indications are that it was not as immune from the same forces as Arendt had assumed fifty years ago when running her comparison.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Wed 22 Feb 2017, 19:07

Thank you very much Nordmann for your insightful comments.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Thu 23 Feb 2017, 11:18

Sorry Paul, I had meant to answer your earlier question about Arendt's use of the word "mob". Your translation is correct in terms of what the word is designed to imply, however it is important to note that Arendt distinguished between the mob and the "mass", and that it was the "mass" who ultimately facilitated the rise of totalitarianism in the cases she addressed.

A mob, she pointed out, is a group of individuals who at any single point are commonly motivated - ideologically or nihilistically depending on the circumstance and rarely with a purpose beyond an immediate, sometimes ultimately pointless or inconsequential, political objective in broader social terms - whereas the "mass" better explains the critically large group of society's members who, while not nominally cohesive or even attached to any ideology or political faction, facilitate all kinds of profound social developments, good and evil (mostly in between), by either ignorantly or misguidedly supporting their protagonists through plebiscite, or apathetically failing to register opposition to their progress, or sometimes even actively working against their own society's interests simply through having no political means to overcome their own lack of cohesion. Mobs can sometimes play a catalytic role in effecting political change, but the mass plays a far more fundamental one in this regard, all the time and in every political system, and therefore in nearly every single historically recorded case of social subversion and deterioration into totalitarianism. Arendt's views on this matter seemed to imply to her contemporaries that democracy therefore walked a very fine line indeed so that, of all political systems, it was less the bulwark against totalitarianism they hoped it would be but probably in fact the most vulnerable when faced with the threat of totalitarian ascendancy facilitated by an acquiescent mass within society, and for that reason she was sharply criticised in the post-war era.

Arendt's point however was that mass ignorance, apathy, and voluntary acquiescence in general, sustained more than just totalitarianism but also even those political structures ostensibly represented as being democratic, and therefore the inability to manage or even recognise as an important dynamic force, ignorance, apathy, or a mass acquiescence prompted by either of these, lent a vulnerability to all such visible manifestations of power.

Had she lived another 15 years she would have seen her theory partially vindicated when communism in the old Eastern Bloc and Russia disintegrated almost overnight, not because of any particular mob movement in which one could discern a common ideology, but when the critical mass acquiescence the system required evaporated - a point after which totalitarianism has really no response aside from either total capitulation and disintegration or total repression with only genocide as its logical outcome (if the disintegration is prolonged enough to retain the tools and quantity of adherents required to effect it).

Had she lived another 40 or so years she would have seen even more vindication when the "mass", now in a more global sense, and one increasingly reliant on and satisfied with self-sourced, abundant but in the most part unverifiable information, misinformation, non-information, false information and anti-information (such as the internet and social media represent in sum effect) in order to construct a version of a supposed world view based on no ideology with cohesion at its stated core, in fact so non-cohesive in its construction that it is difficult to discern a view at all which is not so diffuse as to distinguish it from blindness to reality itself, has become now very much a global phenomenon transcending the old nationalistic definitions of community and social boundaries, working non-cohesively but in combination as the nature of its acquiescence shifts, as Arendt predicted, to dynamically effect the disintegration of many indiscriminately targeted political systems in structural form, including - and inevitably - democratic ones.

Along the way we have seen other examples of how a poorly informed mass, so poorly informed that the bulk of its constituents cannot even recognise to what extent they have acquiesced with rather than intelligently contributed to a profound social change, have irrevocably affected their own society in a manner they are often equally too poorly informed to appreciate even after they have done it. The regime may ostensibly survive in the immediate aftermath, but in damaged form and, as Arendt would have warned, very likely on borrowed time from that point on. Brexit is a case in point (though one can readily find others). While one can argue coherently both for and against remaining within the EU, what transpired in the British referendum - even among those who understood the referendum process (some were so poorly informed that they didn't even understand the nature of the specific task ahead of them in terms of legal outcome) - was that very few arguments thus employed were equal in complexity to that of the result of their actions, or in fact were even demanded to be by those charged with the decision (some even demanded they should not be - the expertise required to understand and explain the complexity being at one point declared anti-democratic), and in many cases were therefore not even based on actual facts pertaining to the issue at all though often vehemently believed to be or at least pretended to be by those both expressing and absorbing them. In a democracy, where the stated will of the people is integral to the logic of the system, then a misinformed and incoherently expressed will - when exposed as such in a society in so public, blatant and undeniable a form even to its own members - can only weaken that system's integrity and will in any case definitely weaken its members faith in its efficacy as a politically viable project, regardless of the merits or otherwise of the particular outcome to the political process in which it was revealed.

Arendt would have recognised this immediately for what it was - the veneer of democracy often masks a system of power not too fundamentally different from that which totalitarianism more overtly advertises - if in self-servingly corrupt form - but which essentially underpins both. Both require therefore the same acquiescence from the "mass" to perpetuate the underlying sources and conduits of power but are extremely vulnerable when the nature of that acquiescence changes. Instead of gloating over the "fall" of communism for example, those of us within western democracies who reap the rewards of the power structure sustaining them (and in a democracy this is ostensibly everyone), might have been better advised in fact to see its sheer suddenness as a dire portent and probably the most profoundly important feature of the whole process.

Ignorance, in its least prejudicial sense meaning not having sufficient information to effectively shape or apparently even influence social development in a coherent manner, even when this condition manifests itself politically as "mere" apathy or stupidity to be derided and dismissed, is in fact an extremely powerful force in humanity which, despite its apparent distance from the political process, nevertheless profoundly influences social development to a degree that concerted and coherently political attempts actually rarely achieve, and one that is often underestimated in this role until it is too late to reverse or even address its sometimes catastrophic consequences.

Whether it manifests itself as mass apathy or simply diffuse, ill informed, passive and totally reactionary knee-jerk responses to perceived events which themselves may fail factual analysis - in other words expressive of people disengaged from and unrelated to the "real" world in which political reality is shaped through engagement, knowledge, action and intent - the cumulative effect when the nature of the acquiescence no longer conforms to that required by any power structure it previously sustained can not only quickly destroy particular political regimes built on these foundations but can equally quickly facilitate the rapid rise of others better suited to exploit this phenomenon, even if these rarely achieve much beyond opportunistically exploiting it for short term gain restricted to very few beneficiaries in terms of power.

We are witnessing such a phenomenon now, most noticeably in the USA but in fact in many other instances too, as previously "solid" and what we thought were well-thought-out political regimes struggle to cope with what the acquiescent mass, ignorant in a new manner, is now prepared to acquiesce with. Those working from within such a system to subvert and undermine it are the ones best poised to utilise this huge "ally" to their particular agenda, the ally being too diffuse and ignorant to contradict them and, in fact, more likely to support them when the gibberish that inevitably emanates from a diffuse and ignorant mass is parsed, the useful elements plucked out, and then dressed in a context which lends them vicarious meaning apposite to these willing recipients' agendas. This in turn encourages elements within the mass, in the mistaken belief that they have found a valid voice (often without the slightest interest in any specific agenda which others might be putting what is said into the service of), to produce ever more gibberish which can be thus exploited, and so on in an ever increasing spiral of reciprocity, against which any system grounded in a requirement to address reality in realistic and accountable terms simply cannot effectively compete. This would be the point where a totalitarian regime's employment of repression would exceed its pretense to safeguarding a common good in order to stem the flow. Other systems may try to employ more subtle means to the same end, but in fact once this cycle has been established, in no matter which political system, the end result is unpredictable and rarely pretty. When the acquiescent mass no longer acquiesces in quite the manner on which the system depends then the discord generates forces within society that, in effect, no one controls any longer.

Arendt's underlying point was that all this however should come as no surprise, and that we should of course deplore it when it arises as it normally indicates a system losing control of determining the future of society with inevitably unpredictable results, especially when those results prove to include the death and enslavement of millions as in the cases she addressed, but if we are genuinely abhorrent of it we should at least trace its causes and actual nature through a more realistic appraisal of our own history. As societies move towards globalism we are less able to adopt the traditional belated "solutions" of letting it take its course or militarily tackling its consequences.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Thu 23 Feb 2017, 21:36

Thank you again Nordmann for all these enlightenments.
I read further in the "book" and discovered all what you mentioned about the "mob" and the "masses" and it is indeed a fair wording of yours about her concepts.
I have a lot more to say about her and your message as about the concept of her about a "party" and a "movment" and other comments where I am not agree with her...
But too late this evening to "compose" an elaborated reply... but see you again tomorrow...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Thu 23 Feb 2017, 22:49

Arendt maintained that a totalitarian "movement", such as Russian pre-bolshevik socialism for example in its initially broadest sense, drew support from the masses in a manner that a party never could, and this I reckon is almost a truism. A political movement, especially in its early burgeoning stage, typically draws not only support but also definition as much from the masses through populist appeal than from its ideological leaders through their design, even those who directly and actively seek populist appeal, such as occurred initially with the bolsheviks. When a totalitarian party - such as Hitler's National Socialists or indeed the Bolshevik Party - rises to power, even one seen as having been at the vanguard of a populist movement and making political mileage on that basis, it tends more to actually view the same masses with intense distrust and suspicion, almost immediately after it has secured the reins of power, and in fact goes out of its way then to restrict expression from that source afterwards using extreme means. Arendt was looking at fascism and communism as both had translated into party politics during her own lifetime and in her direct experience, and in fact I don't think there were even many of her detractors who quibbled with that assessment of hers.

But I agree - outside totalitarian politics the distinction often becomes one simply of nuanced preference. "Mild" socialism for example, such as the labour movement within Great Britain's socio-political context, produced a Labour Party which did not begin to distrust the "mass" constituting its labour roots until relatively recently. Both the movement and the party were almost synonymous terms for much the same thing for many decades.

In that sense Arendt overstated her case in using only totalitarianism from which to draw her definition. Though to be fair to her, what we are seeing in the US and elsewhere in recent times could well be evidence that she was correct to highlight that functional distinction between the two terms, especially with respect to populist agendas, and that it can indeed apply politically even when there isn't (as yet at least) an overt shift to totalitarian behaviour. But it's early yet. In her claim that parties ultimately reject and suspect the masses from which they initially drew support as movements, and that this almost always results in a lurch towards totalitarian society, she might well have called the current trends that we can see happening as we speak accurately too. Let's hope for our sakes she didn't.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Fri 24 Feb 2017, 22:16

Nordmann,

"Arendt maintained that a totalitarian "movement", such as Russian pre-bolshevik socialism for example in its initially broadest sense, drew support from the masses in a manner that a party never could, and this I reckon is almost a truism. A political movement, especially in its early burgeoning stage, typically draws not only support but also definition as much from the masses through populist appeal than from its ideological leaders through their design, even those who directly and actively seek populist appeal, such as occurred initially with the bolsheviks. When a totalitarian party - such as Hitler's National Socialists or indeed the Bolshevik Party - rises to power, even one seen as having been at the vanguard of a populist movement and making political mileage on that basis, it tends more to actually view the same masses with intense distrust and suspicion, almost immediately after it has secured the reins of power, and in fact goes out of its way then to restrict expression from that source afterwards using extreme means. Arendt was looking at fascism and communism as both had translated into party politics during her own lifetime and in her direct experience, and in fact I don't think there were even many of her detractors who quibbled with that assessment of hers."

That was what I wanted to explain too. Both the Nazis and the Bolsheviks started as a party. And in my opinion they remained a kind of a party. If the Kerensky party from the first Russian revolution had survived it could have established a Russian empire with parties as in Britain. In fact all Socialist parties have survived spread over the several nation-states. It were only as Hannah said once they had the adherence of the "masses" through populist emphasizing of what was present as under current griefs in those indecisive masses, that they took again distance from those masses, with a reign of terror. And I think it was also Hannah who said: In the beginning it is still possible to react, but once the reign of terror is installed it is too late.

I learned a lot while reading that book.
As her description of the "vlottende" (afloating?) mass, which is in essence apolitic, but where the big problems, or as big problems experienced, are steadely on the back ground, as today for instance the immigration and the sheer speed of economic and social evolution too strong for that rather apathetic mass. And that gives an unease among these otherwise uninterested common man. And if you have a populist party and on top of that preferential a populist leader, which can draw into that reservoir of anxiety and can be a sounding board for all these griefs. This party can grow with the consent of the masses in a one party system that once into power with a repressive apparatus can come to a one party totalitarian state. Perhaps not so completely parallel in the Bolshevic scheme, where they nearly immediately started from the idealistic party movement into the party discipline with a repressive political police?

I learned also a lot about the status of "stateliness" from her and did further research about it.

Nordmann have still to comment but it will be for tomorrow...

Thanks again for your always to the point and interesting comments.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 25 Feb 2017, 15:00

Paul wrote:
Both the Nazis and the Bolsheviks started as a party. And in my opinion they remained a kind of a party.

Technically correct, but Arendt pointed out a big difference between them. The Bolshevik Party (the "minority") initially represented itself as the numerically smaller communist faction within a communist parliament which nevertheless held most true to the communist "movement's" original ideals. This is not a unique phenomenon, however offensively arrogant an assumption it may sound on the part of those adopting that stance and is often in fact blatantly ludicrous in political terms - the tiny "Real IRA" assume a similar identity and function in relation to republicanism in Ireland for example - but it is a crucial one according to Arendt in that it characterises almost always a political faction which still persists in drawing its identity and justification for existence and all consequent claims almost vicariously from a nebulous "movement" supported by the "masses", a party which in purely political terms will almost never assume control based on any politically expressed majority support, and will almost always therefore - if it does nevertheless engineer a route to absolute power -  immediately impose the most repressive, restrictive and sometimes even genocidal policies on the very "masses" from which they initially derived justification for their existence.

The Nazis on the other hand were a crucially different phenomenon in that they did not draw their identity and initial definition from the "movement" their name suggested they had evolved from, and didn't even pretend to. Their party name suggested a valid political stance but in no way represented their policies, their aims or their actions. What aspect to "socialism" (at its core a pan-national and non-nationalistic political movement of the working classes) did the "National Socialists" ever actually even pretend to support except vague appeals to the "common man", a commonality that arbitrarily excluded so many sectors that it was a contradiction in terms, expressed as socialist "ideals" which did not preclude aristocratic or big-finance support and a hankering for the party leaders to join those ranks as fully fledged members? However this did not impinge on their pursuit of mass appeal in the slightest, despite several articulate and concerted efforts by their political opponents originally to derail them on that basis, not least by actual socialists quite rightly offended at this gross usurpation of their identity.

For Arendt this was vindication of her other claim - one for which she was consistently derided - in which she averred that the most potent mass in any society was not one united by any adopted ideological certainties but one in which the only common feature ideologically was that no ideology mattered or even existed. This is a mass of people who could not care if they or others supported "National Socialists" who were anything but "socialist" or, as has pertained in the USA in recent times even long before Trump, "republicans" who ride roughshod over every traditional republican principle or "democrats" who wish to govern autocratically. Those who constitute this critical mass are people for whom ideological labels - of crucial importance in purely political terms - have no importance whatsoever beyond as badges of identity by which "others" sometimes can be grouped while they pretend or are instructed to have a common identity and purpose defined in opposition to those groups, and ironically this lack of political comprehension makes them into one of the most powerful political influences that can exist.

When that influence is exercised or is allowed to be exercised it creates societies prone to being hijacked by individuals who recognise that they no longer need to justify their policies through reference to political principle to draw support which critically advances them politically all the same, simply accept unquestioning support of the ignorant and apathetic equally unquestioningly. However while this works in the acquisition of power it proves inevitably unreliable in retaining this power. There inevitably arises a need to implement a backlash against that same nebulous mass when safely ensconced in power before the same unquestioning ignorance and apathy facilitates a backlash against them should it be exploited by others equally as unscrupulous which then deprives them of the power they have attained. The Bolsheviks under Stalin got into that position eventually once the original idealogues had been purged. Hitler got there even quicker once he entered his party into the fray from inside the political structure rather than as external agitators, as he had initially attempted. Trump, though with rather more pecuniary than totalitarian ambitions which one can deduce at this point in time - as far as I can see based on his so-called "reforms" and the rhetoric and background of his appointees - is already there.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 25 Feb 2017, 17:43

Yet the fault is not totally down to apathetic masses. Even staunchly liberal politicians seem unable to communicate useful policies that appeal. Manipulation of the masses is not so hard - not if a dolt like Farge can do it. And having tipped over a bucket of guts he put on his camel coat and walked away from the mess to chat up another doing similar.... only he is now chucking his gut-bucket load about. One wonders how it will end - we have, in house here, spent hours discussing whether or not  the USA still has the fairest form of democracy.But I interrupt your most interesting and thought provoking posts, Paul and nordmann, for which I apologise. So carry on do.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 25 Feb 2017, 18:00

Funnily enough it's not "mass apathy" that is the problem in these scenarios. Had apathy translated into inaction then politically in most cases the situation remained manageable. As Brexit clearly exemplified, it is when a previously apathetic mass are goaded, encouraged or forced into holding an opinion that it becomes most dangerous and the political results unmanageably unpredictable.

That which mobilises the great apathetic unwashed can be as diverse in terms of life-and-death importance as runaway inflation and impoverishment such as in Germany in the early 1930s, or just a simple requirement to vote in a referendum in a society in which the opportunity to express opinion en masse is severely limited (Britain 2016), or a failure through years of engineered ignorance to identify those who are actually working against your interests (USA 2016). All that these scenarios have in common is that there was inevitably someone poised to exploit them - as Arendt suggested - and the ones who most successfully exploit them are the ones who in strictly political terms adhere least to established principle.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 25 Feb 2017, 18:15

I amMa not quite convinced of mass goading. mass hysteria - such as Beatle mania, the death of Princess Di, the media attention to Trump's quirkiness the whole business of overweaning popularity in lemming like proportion needs explanation. (To me it does, anyway.) And this on Oscar night and the baying masses gawping at the red carpet favoured ones. It goes against my grain no end - used to be known for ducking introduction to the famed ones who came within range. But I ought to saty out of this discussion because it is a broader canvas and so well observed and recorded.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sat 25 Feb 2017, 22:42

Sorry Paul, having read your last post more closely I see now that you reckon Arendt claimed that the two totalitarian regimes you named saw themselves as movements rather than parties. I never got that impression from her writing, I must say. Rather, I reckon, her point was that both parties never relinquished their self-justification on the grounds that they represented wholesale movements, even when their actions as parties in power had long proven this claim to be blatantly spurious. It was a feature of totalitarianism in her view, though she was at pains to point out that in a way they were both correct - but just not in the sense of the mass ideological movements both parties cited, instead what they were exploiting was a rather vaguer aspect of the masses which is to facilitate the rise to power of ideologues and non-ideologues alike whose only real interaction with the masses' constituents is to claim to speak for them on the way to achieving power and then to severely legislate against that mass ever having influence again once power has been achieved. It is a poisonous relationship based on a misrepresentation of the truth, she reckoned, almost impossible to arrest once set in motion and which always ends badly for both sides - most catastrophically for the "masses" themselves.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 27 Feb 2017, 20:42

Sorry Nordmann for not answering and I have still a lot to comment, but involved in a discussion on Historum about the European Union. And I need a lot of time to do research before I compose my messages. And the act of drawing up an elaborated text in English is still difficult for me after all those years.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Thu 23 Mar 2017, 22:08

Nordmann,

"It was a feature of totalitarianism in her view, though she was at pains to point out that in a way they were both correct - but just not in the sense of the mass ideological movements both parties cited, instead what they were exploiting was a rather vaguer aspect of the masses which is to facilitate the rise to power of ideologues and non-ideologues alike whose only real interaction with the masses' constituents is to claim to speak for them on the way to achieving power and then to severely legislate against that mass ever having influence again once power has been achieved. It is a poisonous relationship based on a misrepresentation of the truth, she reckoned, almost impossible to arrest once set in motion and which always ends badly for both sides - most catastrophically for the "masses" themselves."

It was just that that I also wanted tyo explain, but as usual you are wording it that much better.
" - but just not in the sense of the mass ideological movements both parties cited, instead what they were exploiting was a rather vaguer aspect of the masses which is to facilitate the rise to power of ideologues and non-ideologues alike whose only real interaction with the masses' constituents is to claim to speak for them on the way to achieving power "

" - but just not in the sense of the mass ideological movements both parties cited, instead what they were exploiting was a rather vaguer aspect of the masses which is to facilitate the rise to power of ideologues and non-ideologues alike whose only real interaction with the masses' constituents is to claim to speak for them on the way to achieving power

"vaguer aspect of the masses" I wanted to word it as "unease of the masses"
For instance in the German case: an unease as to have been mislead in a promised victorious war and then after being led in a nearly armistice, burdened with all guilt clauses, an unease again increased by the hyperinflation of 1923 (i diçscussed it with a seemingly knowledgeable person last week), where a whole lot of the masses lost all their earnings. And when end the Twenties the economy was again reemerged, and the common German had again hope on better times, the hyperinflation was still in every ones mind and when end the Twenties there was the American crash and as the German economy by the American loans was very imposed, starting again the phantom of the bad times, the masses were open to...
For instance in the Russian case: an unease, not so much of being still in a feodal society, they were used to it after all, but about the burden of a war not asked for by the masses. And when there was a lack of food and supply of necessary goods there was a demand to got ridden from that undemanded war and to change instead the focus on the needs of the masses. It was perhaps that that Kerensky didn't fully understand, however the question was if he in the given circumstances could have acted otherwise than he has acted. After a lengthy discussion with a knowledgeable person about the Russian revolution I believe that the circumstances as in the real history have prescribed what would happen...
Saw on Arte the documentary of the Revolution in French, its all in detail and to the point
For those who understand French...Meles meles...I think it will be somenwhere on the internet in German too...

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5dm1mk_lenine-une-autre-histoire-de-la-revolution_news

No what I wanted to say: in my opinion it is not a "vaguer aspect of the masses" but an unease based on real experiences of those masses and which are rightly or wrongly are seen as bad undeserved plights. And with these aspects they are easy targets of all kind of populists, which try to have a leading role in society.

And in that option I don't fear immediatley for the West but rather for countries as Russia (although it will be the question if they can support it against the world with their 180 million? But perhaps still do some earnest damage?) and China?
Saw the day before yesterday (first started watching on Arte in French, but when it was stopped watching further on internet then in German about "Moskaus Imperium" (the 100 years after the October revolution) (it will be I think available in French on the internet too in some time)




Its all there: frustration about the old Soviet Union where they were a worldpower. And now the masses still not the level of the West.

Seen the "status" of the Russian language in the old Soviet Union,
the religion used again as "cement" for the society, again the old values of the Orthodox religion (and anti-gay) (seen a priest about all that stuff (old values and all that) in the documentary) (the adhesion to the religion is skyrocked and seen by a well willing eye by the directing government officials)
a new nationalism, to be proud of again, the Western values are bad, the Russian Orthodox values are good...
Some explosive mix again as in the time in Germany, even worser than in the old Soviet Union?
I hope that the Russian masses have learned from history...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Fri 24 Mar 2017, 08:51

Paul wrote:
"vaguer aspect of the masses" I wanted to word it as "unease of the masses"

And you would be correct, especially if - as you have done above - you can easily illustrate the source of that unease. Where it becomes vague in relation to the masses is when they feel unease for no discernible reason, such as could be said about the attitude towards the European Union exhibited by a fair chunk of the UK population lately but about which no amount of analysis actually gets to any intelligent root for this dissatisfaction, or at least such dissatisfaction that it has led to putting the welfare of millions of people (including that of the masses responsible) at huge risk. One could say much the same about the Trump election. But in fact history is studded with countless examples of such events, explicable - if at all - only in retrospect, and even then not often in a manner that can begin to address all the actual or recorded symptoms of the event. Arendt frequently warned about underestimating the catastrophic effect of such vague but effective "movements".
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Sun 26 Mar 2017, 21:38

Nordmann,

excuses for the delay (on holidays to:

http://www.grotte-de-han.be/en/the-cave-of-han
And among others this very interesting prehistoric finds:
http://www.grotte-de-han.be/en/prehistohan

Back to the subject:

"Where it becomes vague in relation to the masses is when they feel unease for no discernible reason... One could say much the same about the Trump election."
Not so sure about the vague unease for no discernible reason...leading to the election of Trump...
I would rather discern a real unease among the Americans,
who see the departure of assembling factories abroad due to the liberal policiy (can we say capitalistic behaviour, increase of the earnings of the shareholders undependent of the social cost in whatever perspective) of the multinationals (among them many own US ones)
who, from the lower earning man in the street perspective, see a fast evoluting society, which is so changing both in environment and social behaviour that they are lost a bit and searching for the stable reality from before...
Americans, who have more than the Europeans a feeling of the greatness of the United States and its symbols and want to see again a "great" America even! pictured and promised by populists...

And in that sense the same tendencies were at work with the "Brexit" election too?
I put a breakdown of the election overhere and when you look at who and where has chosen for the Brexit...the older ones, the less educated ones, the people from outside the big cities...?

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Hannah Arendt and totalitarism   Mon 27 Mar 2017, 11:13

And I'm not contradicting you, Paul, just pointing out the inadequacy of this reason to explain the phenomenon in its fullest interpretation, the capitulation of democracy to an ascendant autocracy in which intelligence and fact, or anything else which might halt that ascendancy, is not only ridiculed but even outlawed on occasion, and in which those upon whom democracy depends to function, the electorate, are actively assisting in this catastrophic trend in such numbers as to constitute, in Arendt's definition, a "movement".

Arendt never went so far as to say it, but my own view is that those who assist in such a process should at least acknowledge that when they cut off their nose to spite their face they should prepare for a future they have shaped in which they can never smell a rat again, even in the unlikely event that they ever fortuitously develop the intelligence to do so. The likelihood - and history rather depressingly tends to confirm this - is that such is not how it works once the process has begun. People without the ability to intelligently predict outcomes for their actions tend to require rather catastrophic and traumatic experiences to ensure they finally see the error of their ways. That is, if they survive that experience of course.
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