Less than a century old, the concept of totalitarianism is one of the most controversial in political theory, with some proposing to abandon it altogether. In this accessible, wide-ranging introduction, David Roberts addresses the grounds for skepticism and shows that appropriately recast-as an aspiration and direction, rather than a system of domination-totalitarianism is essential for understanding the modern political universe.
Surveying the career of the concept from the 1920s to today, Roberts shows how it might better be applied to the three classic regimes of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Stalinist Soviet Union. Extending totalitarianism's reach into the twenty-first century, he then examines how Communist China, Vladimir Putin's Russia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), and the threat of the technological surveillance state can be conceptualized in the totalitarian tradition. Roberts shows that although the term has come to have overwhelmingly negative connotations, some have enthusiastically pursued a totalitarian direction-and not simply for power, control, or domination.
This volume will be essential reading for any student, scholar or reader interested in how totalitarianism does, and could, shape our modern political world.