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As a vehicle for condemnation as well as analysis, totalitarianism is likely to remain a vibrant idea long into the twenty-first century. Its extension to radical Islam is already evident. And as a potent reminder of the terrible deeds of which humans are capable, the concept has few conceptual rivals. Principled disagreements as well as polemics about its value continue to mark its career. Present dangers, and anxious debates about how they should best be characterized, suggest that the age of totalitarianism is not yet over.


Applebaum, Anne. Gulag: A History. New York: Doubleday, 2003.

Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. 1951. Reprint, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1968.

Rich, acute, idiosyncratic, puzzling, seminal. Baehr, Peter, and Melvin Richter, eds. Dictatorship in History and Theory: Bonapartism, Caesarism, and Totalitarianism. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Berman, Paul. Terror and Liberalism. New York: Norton, 2003. On "Muslim totalitarianism."

Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

Canovan, Margaret. Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Unsurpassed analysis of Arendt's multilayered theory of totalitarianism.

Chandler, David. Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Courtois, Stéphane, et al. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. 1997. Reprint, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. Foreword by Martin Malia. Contains chapters devoted to the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Central and Southeastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa.

Friedrich, Carl J., ed. Totalitarianism: Proceedings of a Conference Held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, March 1953. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954. Contributors include Karl W. Deutsch, Erik H. Erikson, Waldemar Gurian, Alex Inkeles, George F. Kennan, Harold D. Lasswell, and Bertram D. Wolfe.

Friedrich, Carl J., and Zbigniew K. Brzezinski. Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy. 2nd rev. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965. Lucid and influential.

Furet, François, and Ernst Nolte. Fascism and Communism. Translated by Katherine Golsan. 1998. Reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. A model of civilized debate by two of the twentieth century's foremost historians.

Gentile, Emilio. "The Sacralization of Politics: Definitions, Interpretations, and Reflections on the Question of Secular Religion and Totalitarianism." Translated by Robert Mallett. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 1, no. 1 (2000): 18–55.

Gleason, Abbott. Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Excellent overall account which, despite its title, actually starts in the 1920s. My references to Giovanni Amendola come from this source.

Griffin, Roger, ed. Fascism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Ably edited collection that stresses Fascism's ideological core in "palingenesis"—the myth of rebirth.

Hobsbawm, Eric. Age of Extremes. New York: Pantheon, 1994.

Kershaw, Ian, and Moshe Lewin, eds. Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Includes essays by Michael Mann and Hans Mommsen.

Kirkpatrick, Jeane. Dictatorships and Double Standards: Rationalism and Reason in Politics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Lifka, Thomas E. The Concept "Totalitarianism" and American Foreign Policy, 1933–1949. New York: Garland, 1988.

Lifton, Robert Jay. Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. New York: Norton, 1961. Rich empirical study of Chinese Communist "brainwashing."

Linz, Juan J. Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. Boulder, Colo.: Rienner, 2000. A rigorous analysis that distinguishes among a variety of authoritarian regimes.

Menze, Ernest A., ed. Totalitarianism Reconsidered. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat, 1981. Contains two essays by Karl Dietrich Bracher.

Nathan, Andrew. China's Transition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Schapiro, Leonard. Totalitarianism. New York: Praeger, 1972.

Schoenhals, Michael, ed. China's Cultural Revolution, 1966–1969: Not a Dinner Party. Armonk, N.Y.: Sharpe, 1996.

Talmon, Jacob L. The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy. 1952. Reprint, Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1985. A classic within the genre concerned with "political religion."

Todorov, Tsvetan. Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps. Translated by Arthur Denner and Abigail Pollak. New York: Owl, 1997.

Zaslavsky, Victor. "The Katyn Massacre: 'Class Cleansing' as Totalitarian Praxis." Translated by Joseph Cardinale. Telos 114 (1999): 67–107. Robust critique of the Frankfurt School's "dialectic of Enlightenment" approach; argues for two phases of totalitarian development.

Peter Baehr

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Thallophyta to ToxicologyTotalitarianism - Origins, Trajectory, Causation, Totalitarian Characteristics, The Coherence Of Totalitarianism, Criticisms And Responses