Totalitarianism and Political Religion: An Intellectual History

Totalitarianism and Political Religion: An Intellectual History

A. James Gregor

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0804781303

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The totalitarian systems that arose in the twentieth century presented themselves as secular. Yet, as A. James Gregor argues in this book, they themselves functioned as religions. He presents an intellectual history of the rise of these political religions, tracing a set of ideas that include belief that a certain text contains impeccable truths; notions of infallible, charismatic leadership; and the promise of human redemption through strict obedience, selfless sacrifice, total dedication, and unremitting labor.

Gregor provides unique insight into the variants of Marxism, Fascism, and National Socialism that dominated our immediate past. He explores the seeds of totalitarianism as secular faith in the nineteenth-century ideologies of Ludwig Feuerbach, Moses Hess, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Richard Wagner. He follows the growth of those seeds as the twentieth century became host to Leninism and Stalinism, Italian Fascism, and German National Socialism—each a totalitarian institution and a political religion.

The Communists and Peace with A Reply to Claude Lefort


















They shared not only mutual respect, but a set of convictions that were to systematize Wagner’s entire belief system—a belief system that was to survive Wagner and influence some of the most important political actors of the twentieth century. Count Arthur de Gobineau (1816–1882) Gobineau was to bring a fateful component to the social and political convictions of Richard Wagner. His study, The Inequality of Human Races,28 first published in –, was harbinger of what was to come. It was

point at which industry began to establish itself in society. He cited the founding and expansion of industry in the British Isles as an illustrative case in point. In England, because of prevailing property rights, machine production was concentrated in the hands of those privileged by birth and inherited wealth. Workers who previously had been independent yeomen and artisans were swept into shops dominated by machines and the masters of those machines. Monopolization of the land drove still

contemporary authors, the works of Emilio Gentile, Politics as Religion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, ); and Michael Burleigh, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror (New York: Harper, ), recommend themselves.  int ro duc t ion of industrial pluralisms. There are clear differences between an unqualifiedly religious system that has assumed sovereign political power, and an industrial democracy animated by a “civil

Revolution, Lenin remained steadfast in both his convictions and his attitudes. His possession of doctrinal truth made him the implacable enemy of what he understood to be the machinations of the petite bourgeoisie, of the political liberals, and of the advocates of parliamentarianism. While prepared, for pragmatic reasons, to work with nonbolsheviks, it was clear that strict orthodoxy in the party, as he understood orthodoxy, was his imperative. He was, and was to remain, the advocate of the

its conclusion, Mussolini spoke of Mazzini’s appeal to the nation’s workers—those who had sacrificed for victory. It was in that context that he spoke of a “national syndicalism”—of a political doctrine that would unite all productive workers in that program of rapid economic and industrial development advocated by Mazzini—to complete the work of the Risorgimento, lifting the nation to the rank of a major world power.59 At the same time, more and more of the ideas of Giovanni Gentile surfaced

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