Why Did Totalitarian Governments Control Culture, Such As Books And Films

What Is Totalitarianism? Definition and Examples

Totalitarianism is a kind of governance that outlaws alternative political parties and ideas, while regulating all elements of the public and private life of the people. Every citizen living under a totalitarian system is completely subservient to the state’s unlimited power. Here we shall analyze the political and philosophical aspects of totalitarianism, as well as its level of prevalence in the modern world.

Key Takeaways: Totalitarianism

  • Totalitarianism is a form of governance in which the people are granted little or no authority, and the state has complete control over all aspects of their lives. Totalitarianism is believed to be an extreme type of authoritarianism in which the government has complete control over the public and private lives of the people
  • It is characterized by the government controlling practically all areas of the public and private lives of the people. Totalitarian governments are controlled by autocrats or dictators in the majority of cases. Totalitarian regimes are notorious for violating fundamental human rights and denying ordinary liberties in order to maintain complete control over their populace.

Totalitarianism Definition

In many cases, totalitarianism is regarded as the most extreme form of authoritarianism. It is distinguished by dictatorial centralized rule that is dedicated to controlling all public and private aspects of individual life for the benefit of the state. Totalitarianism is typically characterized by coercion, intimidation, and repression. Absolute rulers or autocrats, who demand unquestioning obedience and dominate public opinion through propaganda supplied through state-controlled media, are typical of totalitarian regimes.

Totalitarianism vs. Authoritarianism

Totalitarianism and authoritarianism both rely on the suppression of any and all kinds of individual liberty. Their approaches to doing so, on the other hand, differ. Authoritarian nations strive to earn the blind, voluntary acquiescence of its subjects via the use of primarily passive means such as propaganda and intimidation. In contrast, totalitarian governments adopt harsh measures such as secret police forces and incarceration to control the private and political lives of its subjects. While totalitarian regimes often demand nearly religious devotion to a particular, highly developed ideology, the majority of authoritarian regimes do not.

Characteristics of Totalitarianism

While they differ independently, totalitarian governments have certain elements in common. In addition to having an overarching ideology that addresses all elements of society in order to achieve the state’s ultimate purpose, all totalitarian nations have a single, all-powerful political party that is generally led by a dictator as their most distinguishing attribute. In a shot from the film adaptation of George Orwell’s novel ‘1984,’ actors Edmond O’Brien and Jan Sterling stand in front of a Big Brother poster with a Big Brother poster behind them.

A secret police force, which is used to mercilessly repress opposition, is controlled by the governing party, which has complete control over all elements and activities of government.

As a result, the government itself is plagued with duplication of responsibilities and activities, resulting in an unmanageably complexbureaucracy that creates an artificial sense of a non-existent division of powers – the opposite of totalitarian regimes in every way.

Mandatory Devotion to a State Ideology

The adoption and service of a single, end-of-the-world ideology committed to overthrowing a dark and corrupt old system and establishing a new, ethnically pure utopian society is mandatory for all residents. Totalitarian ideology, which rejects all conventional kinds of political orientation, whether liberal, conservative, or populist, necessitates an almost fanatical and absolute personal loyalty to a single charismatic leader. It is necessary to demonstrate unwavering and complete commitment to both the regime’s doctrine and its leader.

You might be interested:  What Culture Eats Guinea Pigs

Citizens are made aware that they are always being watched over by the government.

Joseph Stalin, the dictatorial Soviet dictator, is commonly credited as saying, “Ideas are more potent than weaponry.

All fundamental liberties, such as the freedoms of expression and assembly, are denied and criminal under international law.

State Control of Media

To maintain total control over the mainstream media, including art and literature, totalitarian regimes must censor all content. Because of this control, the dictatorship is able to generate a steady stream of propaganda that is intended to “gaslight” the population and keep them from comprehending the hopelessness of their current condition. This propaganda, which is frequently littered with clichéd and nonsensical catchphrases, is represented by the poster published by the totalitarian government described in George Orwell’s famous novel 1984: “War is peace.

“Ignorance is a source of power.”

State Control of the Economy

To advance its predatory military aims, totalitarian governments own and control all sectors of the economy, including capital and the means of production. The personal economic incentives ofcapitalismare therefore rendered impossible. Individual citizens are theoretically free of the independent thought and effort necessary to thrive in a capitalistic society, allowing them to devote their time and energy only to achieving the regime’s ideological aims.

A System of Terror and Constant War

Domestic terrorism The donning of party uniforms and the usage of positive metaphors for terrorists such as “storm troopers,” “freedom warriors,” and “work brigades” are used to commemorate operations carried out in favor of the dictatorship against dissidents. Totalitarian regimes attempt to persuade all persons that they are civilian soldiers in an eternal war against an evil adversary who is frequently only vaguely defined in order to garner even more universal support for their ideological cause.


From as early as 430 BCE, the ancient Grecian kingdom of Sparta implemented a form of government that was eerily similar to dictatorship. When it was first established under King Leonidas I, Sparta’s “educational system” was critical to the city-totalitarian state’s society, in which every element of life, from marriage to child raising, was devoted to the maintenance of the state’s military strength. A rigidly caste-based totalitarian society, described by Plato in his “Republic,” written around 375 BCE, was a totalitarian society in which citizens served the state rather than vice versa.

Political action was largely outlawed under the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BCE), and individuals who opposed or questioned Legalism were put to death.

Modern Examples of Totalitarianism

a group of authoritarian regime leaders (each row – left to right) Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Benito Mussolini, and Kim Il-sung are just a few of the world leaders that have made history. Images courtesy of general Iroh/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain In the tumultuous aftermath of World War I, most historians believe that the first really totalitarian governments came into being, when the fast upgrading of armaments and communications enabled totalitarian groups to assert their power.

You might be interested:  What Is Cancer Culture

Among the more well-known totalitarian regimes that existed during this time period are the following:

Soviet Union Under Joseph Stalin

By 1934, Joseph Stalin’s secret police force had completely eradicated any possible opposition inside the Communist Party, which had been established when he came to power in 1928. During the Great Terror that followed, which lasted from 1937 to 1938, millions of innocent Soviet civilians were either arrested and murdered or imprisoned in concentration camps. Soviet citizens had grown so scared of Stalin by 1939 that mass arrests were no longer required. Throughout World War II and until his death in March 1953, Stalin governed the Soviet Union as the country’s supreme ruler.

Italy Under Benito Mussolini

Since taking power in 1922, Mussolini’s Fascist police state has erased nearly all constitutional and political limitations on the dictator’s ability to exercise his authority. The Doctrine of Fascism proclaimed Italy to be a totalitarian state in 1935, stating that “the Fascist notion of the State is all-encompassing; outside of it, no human or spiritual qualities can exist, much less have worth.” In this light, Fascism is a totalitarian regime.” Mussolini instilled a patriotic fever among the Italian people through propaganda and intimidation, persuading all “loyal” Italians to sacrifice their individualism and die voluntarily in the service of their leader and the Italian state.

Mussolini opted to join Nazi Germany as one of the Axis Powers during World War II in 1936, making him the first Italian leader to do so.

Germany Under Adolf Hitler

Soldiers get together to build a barricade against the Nazis. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images In the years 1933 to 1945, the dictator Adolf Hitler converted Germany into a totalitarian state in which the government exerted control over practically all elements of daily life, known as the Third Reich. Hitler’s dictatorial administration sought to transform Germany into a racially pure military powerhouse by committing genocide and mass murder in the process.

Over the course of the Holocaust, which lasted from 1941 to 1945, Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen, sometimes known as “mobile execution squads,” and the German military forces murdered over six million Jews throughout Germany and German-occupied Europe.

People’s Republic of China Under Mao Zedong

Communist Party of China Former leader of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, also known as Chairman Mao, ruled the country from 1949 until his death in 1976. According to Mao’s Anti-Rightist Campaign, up to 550,000 intellectuals and political dissidents were targeted for punishment between 1955 and 1957. During the Great Leap Forward agricultural to industrial conversion economic plan, which began in 1958, the country experienced a famine that claimed the lives of more than 40 million people.

Current Totalitarian States

Currently, North Korea and the East African state of Eritrea are the only two countries in the world that are still recognized as having totalitarian systems of administration, according to the majority of authorities.

You might be interested:  What 3 Words Describe The Culture Of A Company

North Korea

As the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which came into being in 1948, North Korea has been the world’s longest-running totalitarian regime. North Korea’s government, which is currently led by Kim Jong-un, is regarded one of the most restrictive in the world by Human Rights Watch, and maintains power via brutality and intimidation, according to the organization. In order to promote the government’s authoritarian ideology ofJuche, which holds that real socialism can only be reached by universal devotion to a strong and independent state, propaganda is frequently employed across the country.

The same constitution describes North Korea as “a dictatorship of people’s democracy,” which is a contradiction in itself.


In the years after its declaration of complete independence in 1993, Eritrea has remained a repressive one-party regime. National parliamentary and presidential elections have never taken place under President Isaias Afwerki’s administration, and no such elections are expected in the near future. While Afwerki has denied the claims as politically motivated, Human Rights Watch has labeled Eritrea’s human rights record as “one of the worst in the world,” according to Human Rights Watch. Afwerki’s dictatorial regime employs required, indefinite military or civilian national service to maintain control over the Eritrean people, falsely claiming to be on a continual “war footing” with neighboring Ethiopia.


  • Michael Schäfer’s “Totalitarianism and Political Religions” is available online. Laqueur, Walter. Oxford: Psychology Press, 2004, ISBN 9780714685298
  • Psychology Press, Oxford, 2004. “The Fate of the Revolution: Interpretations of Soviet History from 1917 to the Present” is a book about the fate of the revolution. New York: Scribner’s, 1987, ISBN 978-0684189031
  • s Fitzpatrick, Sheila. “Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s” is a book about ordinary life in extraordinary times in Soviet Russia during the 1930s. Buckley, Chris, ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 9780195050004
  • Buckley, Chris, ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 9780195050004
  • Buckley, Chris. “China Enshrines ‘Xi Jinping Thought,’ Elevating Leader to Mao-Like Status,” reports the Associated Press (AP). The New York Times, October 24, 2017
  • Richard Shorten, The New York Times, October 24, 2017. “Modernism and Totalitarianism: Rethinking the Intellectual Sources of Nazism and Stalinism, 1945 to the Present,” a book published by the University of California Press. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, ISBN 9780230252073
  • Engdahl, F. William, “Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order,” Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, ISBN 9780230252073
  • “World Report 2020,” published by Third Millennium Press in 2009 under the ISBN 9780979560866. H.R.W. (Human Rights Watch)

history of Europe – The trappings of dictatorship

  • During late antiquity, the Roman world underwent a transformation.
  • Church and devotional life are organized according to a certain framework.
  • Moving from persuasion to coercion: the creation of a new religious discipline in the Church
  • From territorial principalities to territorial monarchies, there has been a shift in the political landscape.
  • When did the Middle Ages come to an end? Crisis, recovery, and resilience
  • Political and cultural factors have an impact on the economy.

The Industrial Revolution and the Development of Industrial Society, 1789–1914

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *