In 1951, political philosopher Hannah Arendt published her influential masterwork The Origins of Totalitarianism. In it she says that "totalitarian governments are characterized by their replacement of all prior traditions and political institutions with new ones that serve the specific and singular goal of the totalitarian state. Totalitarian governments strive for global rule and are distinguished by their successful organization of the masses...Arendt also argues that ...[totalitarian governments] are defined by their use of terror...directed at enemies of the regime and obedient followers without distinction" (Slair, 2015).
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt was responding to the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism. Other writers responded to totalitarian ideologies, not through the writing of political treatises, but through fiction. The novels that they wrote attempt to place us in totalitarian societies, so that we experience them as do the characters in these books, and so that we are moved to work in our world to keep such things from coming to pass.
This webpage is designed to connect the curious to works of fiction owned by the Gumberg Library that depict these totalitarian worlds, real and imagined, many of which have served as important political prophecies. It will also point the user to electronic reference databases for background information, print and electronic books about the authors and the works themselves, and to databases for articles from literary, historical, sociological, and philosophical journals.
Slair, Cali. "Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism." 2015.Not Even Past. http://notevenpast.org/hannah-arendts-the-origins-of-totalitarianism/