Document Type

Dictionary entry

Source Publication

New dictionary of the history of ideas. Vol. 6

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Charles Scribner's Sons


Totalitarianism is a concept rooted in the horror of modern war, revolution, terror, genocide, and, since 1945, the threat of nuclear annihilation. It is also among the most versatile and contested terms in the political lexicon. At its simplest, the idea suggests that despite Fascist/Nazi “particularism” (the centrality of the nation or the master race) and Bolshevist “universalism” (the aspiration toward a classless, international brotherhood of man), both regimes were basically alike—which, as Carl Friedrich noted early on, is not to claim that they were wholly alike. Extreme in its denial of liberty, totalitarianism conveys a regime type with truly radical ambitions. Its chief objectives are to rule unimpeded by legal restraint, civic pluralism, and party competition, and to refashion human nature itself.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2005 Gale

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9780684313832

Recommended Citation

Baehr, P. (2005). Totalitarianism. In M. C. Horowitz (Ed.), New dictionary of the history of ideas. Vol. 6 (pp. 2342-2348). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

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