Totalitarianism is a kind of governance in which the state maintains tight sway over the people. People have very little rights and very little authority over their own lives.
The most severe type of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, is considered oppressive. It has several characteristics with both Nazism and Soviet Communism.
Theologically, totalitarian regimes might be regarded as the reverse of democratic regimes, in which the people hold the reins of authority.
Totalitarian regimes are commonly referred to as dictatorships because they are controlled by a government that was not elected by the people but rather by a single dictator or a collection of dictators. In many nations, they are also deemed fascist.
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Elements of totalitarianism
In totalitarian regimes, people’s private and public life are tightly controlled. As long as there are no checks and balances in existence, a totalitarian government may do anything it wants.
Rather than having any say or control over their own lives, the people of a nation are completely dependent on the government.
People in nations under totalitarian regimes are unable to engage in any stage of the political decision-making process, including selecting their government representatives.
People in totalitarian regimes have no freedom of expression or the press because they believe in censorship.
Protesters who speak out against the administration face serious consequences. Totalitarian regimes tend to suppress, ban, and/or criminalize ideologies, beliefs, and faiths that the government opposes.
Another basic aspect of authoritarianism is the fear that permeates it. Fear is a common tactic used by totalitarian authorities to discourage their subjects from rising in rebellion or staging protests.
People are less inclined to speak out against injustice when they are concerned about government reprisal.
Democracy prides itself on the fact that individuals have a voice in how they feel about the government, whereas totalitarian regimes demand that people accept what the government says, does, and demands on the surface—even if they disagree.
For fear of retaliation, anyone who disapproves of the totalitarian regime’s policies must keep their disapproval a secret. It’s now an issue of remaining quiet to keep oneself protected.
To keep the population under control, totalitarian regimes typically use police forces (which may operate brutally, in secret, or with little respect to legality) to keep the populace under control.
According to Friedrich and Brzezinski’s definition of totalitarianism in 1956, there are six distinguishing characteristics:
- A complex guiding philosophy [usually centered on patriotism and allegiance to the state]
- It is common for a tyrant to lead one political party.
- Control of the populace by the use of weapons of fear, such as violence and the secret police
- The existence of a government-imposed arms monopoly
- Means of communication controlled by the government (such as state-controlled media and heavy censorship)
A government-managed economy
A list of six criteria of totalitarianism was developed by political scholars Carl Joachin Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1956. (listed above). Raymond Aron, a French analyst, and philosopher compiled his list in 1968.
As outlined by Aron:
- a one-party state in which the ruling party controls all political activity;
- an ideology of the state that the government regards as the sole authority;
- an information monopoly that tries to control all mass media and distributes the official truth;
- a state-controlled economy in which the state owns the majority of major economic entities; and
- an ideological terror machine that turns the professional or economic activity into crimes.
How do authoritarian countries get started?
However, other sources claim that the word totalitarian state was originally used to define Mussolini’s fascist philosophy by other politicians such as Giovanni Amendola, Luigi Sturzo, or Giovanni Gentile, rather than Mussolini himself.
First, he dubbed it totalitario in the early 1900s; his precise words were, all [are] inside the state, no one [is] outside of it, and no one is against it, which is a reference to the fact that no one is against it.
The fact that Mussolini’s Italian government could not attain absolute totalitarianism because of its tiny population or the fact that the Catholic church was not completely subdued is worth emphasizing.
Although these difficulties are mostly theoretical, totalitarianism was accepted as a legitimate political system before the start of World War II.
Despite Mussolini’s pioneering role in contemporary totalitarianism, many other dictators, including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, the Kim dynasty of North Korea, and Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China, have embraced it as well.
Most of these regimes were established during or after World War II. As seen in the complete chart at the bottom of this page, most failed within a decade and were replaced with a less repressive system.
The Existence of Totalitarian Governments:
- Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under Hibatullah Akhundzada (2021-present)
- The People’s Republic of China, led by Xi Jinping (2013-present ) (disputed)
- The state of Eritrea under the leadership of Isaias Afwerki (2001-present )
- The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the name given to North Korea by the Kim dictatorship (1948-present )
- Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Saparmurat Niyazov ruled Turkmenistan from 1990 to 2000. (1991-present)
Afghanistan, Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan will be the only countries in the world with totalitarian dictatorships by early 2022.
As a result of the Chinese government’s actions in recent years, numerous sources have concluded that China is either on the verge of totalitarianism or has already embraced it.
Also See: Third World Countries 2022
As evidence, scholars point to China’s oppression of the Uyghur people, extreme internet censorship, and heavy mass surveillance of its citizens’ lives—as well as the high-profile case of tennis player Peng Shuai, who accused a government official of sexual misconduct and disappeared for weeks before resurfacing and telling a different story.
Even though it dominated headlines for a while but is now rarely addressed, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh, was a recent totalitarian state that dominated headlines for a time but is now seldom referenced.
Around 8 million individuals were under the control of this terrorist organization when it was at its height in 2015. A successor for Iraq and Syria’s legitimate governments has never been formally recognized by the UN, and I.S.I.L. has lost almost all of its territory and influence by 2019.
|Country||Regime Name||Government Type||Leader||StartYear||EndYear|
|Russia||The Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics||Communist||Joseph Stalin||1924||1953|
|Germany||The Greater German Reich||Fascist||Adolf Hitler||1933||1945|
|Romania||The National Legionary State||Fascist||Ion Antonescu||1940||1941|
|Albania||The People's Socialist Republic of Albania||Communist||Enver Hoxhas (followed by Ramiz Alia)||1946||1990|
|North Korea||The Democratic People's Republic of Korea||Left-Wing Nationalist||The Kim Dynasty||1948|
|China||The People's Republic of China||Left-Wing Nationalist||Mao Zedong||1949||1976|
|Myanmar||The Socialist Republic of Burma||Left-Wing Nationalist||Ne Win||1962||1968|
|Cambodia||The Democratic Kampuchea||Communist||Pol Pot||1975||1979|
|Eritrea||The State of Eritrea||Left-Wing Nationalist||Isaias Afewerki||1993|
|Afghanistan||The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan||Islamist||Mohammed Omar||1996||2001|