This chapter introduces the nature of totalitarianism as interpreted by some of the finest minds of the twentieth century. Russian Bolshevism and German National Socialism, personified by Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, killed around 36 million soldiers and civilians. Hannah Arendt's book The Origins of Totalitarianism is a classic treatment of Bolshevism and Nazism. Investigating totalitarianism was Arendt's ruling passion. The discussion covers a group of Arendt's most acute social critics, men of the caliber of David Riesman, Raymond Aron, and Jules Monnerot. All were skeptical of Arendt's theory of totalitarianism. In turn, Arendt had strong disagreements with them on subjects that straddled politics, ethics, and the interpretation of history.
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