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Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, and the Social Sciences$
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Peter Baehr

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780804756501

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804756501.001.0001

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“Totalitarianism” in the Dialogue of David Riesman and Hannah Arendt

“Totalitarianism” in the Dialogue of David Riesman and Hannah Arendt

(p.35) § 2 “Totalitarianism” in the Dialogue of David Riesman and Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, and the Social Sciences
Stanford University Press

This chapter argues that David Riesman's analysis of Arendt's theory of Nazi Germany and Soviet Bolshevism was especially effective, and that it rested on a defective understanding of totalitarian society and of what it means, more generally, to be a social agent able to play roles, don masks, and take cover in the interstices of a brutal system. Historians of everyday life in Germany and the Soviet Union during their totalitarian phases have subsequently vindicated Riesman's hunches. The chapter also argues that the larger problem with Arendt's analysis lies elsewhere: in her inattentiveness to social relationships and to the impact they had in mediating, refracting, and impeding the regime's goals.

Keywords:   David Riesman, Hannah Arendt, Nazi Germany, Soviet Bolshevism, totalitarian society

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