Summary of Hannah Arendt's Ideology and Terror: a Novel Form of Government

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In her excerpt "Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government" from her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt reveals that terror is at the core of a totalitarian government, and that this terror is based upon ideology. This type of terror exceeds fear. Totalitarianism dominated many governments during the twentieth century. Unlike other forms of government that oppress its people; a totalitarian form of government escapes the boundaries of definition. A totalitarian government is commonly mistaken as a tyranny or dictatorship. Arendt explains that this is because it must begin as a tyranny to lift the boundaries of the laws. Arendt uses two particular governments as examples to help clarify the nature of a…show more content…
Arendt explains that the ultimate power of a totalitarian government is the acceptance of the ideology being propagated. The laws that are put into place in totalitarian government are not to empower the people and protect their rights. Instead, the laws tell the people what they must do, not what they must not do. Arendt tells how the law of nature is the foundation for Hitler's Nazis, and the law of history for Russia's communist regimes. According to Arendt, both the Nazi and communist regimes maintained that those laws gave them justification for their cruelty. These laws of nature and history are not permanent or stable. They are in motion to keep history and nature moving, so that it progresses without ever stopping. <p>Arendt claims that these laws of motion sustain the terror fueling the totalitarian government. Arendt says that terror is the realization and execution of these laws with nothing standing in its way. Throughout the selection, Arendt speaks of terror. Terror is essential for the state to keep its power, or else it will fall. According to Arendt, in a totalitarian state terror terminates individuality among the people. Individual men become a mass of humankind, in the eyes of the state. "Terror exists neither for nor against men", claims Arendt, "it substitutes for the boundaries and channels of communication between individual men a band of iron which holds them so tightly

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