Totalitarianism: Have We Seen the Last of It?

Was totalitarianism an aberration of mid-century now safely behind us, or has it merely changed its stripes?

Issue: Fall 1999

". . . totalitarianism has shaped, or, if one prefers it, distorted the political and governmental scene of the twentieth century. It promises to continue to do so to the end of the century."
--Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1965

There is no perfect way to put the question, but it has to be asked: Was totalitarianism a twentieth-century aberration, or did it reveal something profound in the modern West, something we still must reckon with? One difficulty in posing the question is that since the fall of communism, the very idea of totalitarianism has largely evaporated. It is a rather crude idea, yet it has been central to the way freedom has been construed in our time.

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