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thought on totalitarianism “ or really on National Socialism “ was so diverse.
Those who found Arendt too ¬‚amboyantly intellectual and Friedrich too rigidly
social scienti¬c always had the option of choosing as their point of reference
Fraenkel™s Dual State, with its emphasis on the law, or Neumann™s Behemoth,
with its interest in monopoly capitalism, not to mention the further reaches of
Critical Theory and the studies in prejudice that produced the “authoritarian

¨ ¨¨
Carl Schmitt, Die Diktatur: Von den Anfangen des modernen Souveranitatsgedankens bis zum

proletarischen Klassenkampf, 2nd ed. (Munich and Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1928); Jan-
Werner Muller, A Dangerous Mind: Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought (New Haven,
CT: Yale University Press, 2003).
Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of

National Socialism (New York: Praeger, 1970); Karl Dietrich Bracher, Zeitgeschichtliche Kon-
troversen: Um Faschismus, Totalitarismus, Demokratie (Munich: Piper, 1976); Karl Dietrich
Bracher, The Age of Ideologies: A History of Political Thought in the Twentieth Century (New
York: St. Martin™s Press, 1984); Eberhard Jackel, Hitler™s Weltanschauung: A Blueprint for
Power (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1972).
Martin Broszat, Der Nationalsozialismus; Weltanschauung, Programm und Wirklichkeit

(Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1960); Martin Broszat, Der Staat Hitlers; Grundlegung
und Entwicklung seiner inneren Verfassung (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1969);
Martin Broszat, The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure
of the Third Reich, trans. John W. Hiden (London and New York: Longman, 1981); Hans
Mommsen. “[Introduction] Hannah Arendt und der Prozeß gegen Adolf Eichmann,” Eich-
¨ ¨
mann in Jerusalem: Ein Bericht von der Banalitat des Bosen, ed. Hannah Arendt (Munich and
Zurich: Piper, 1986), I“XXXVII; Hans Mommsen, “The Concept of Totalitarian Dictatorship
vs. the Comparative Theory of Fascism: The Case of National Socialism,” in Totalitarianism
Reconsidered, ed. Ernest A. Menze (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1981), 146“66.
Timothy Mason, “Intention and Explanation: A Current Controversy about the Interpretation

¨ ¨
of National Socialism,” in Der “Fuhrerstaat,” Mythos und Realitat: Studien zur Struktur und
Politik des Dritten Reiches = The “Fuhrer State,” Myth and Reality: Studies on the Structure
and Politics of the Third Reich, eds. Lothar Kettenacker and Gerhard Hirschfeld (Stuttgart:
Klett-Cotta, 1981), 23“72.
Michael Geyer

personality.”23 Moreover, there were always those who traced their lineage
back to theories of political religion, for whom Voegelin™s 1939 treatise on
Die politischen Religionen, Raymond Aron™s less well remembered piece on
the “Arrival of Secular Religions” in 1944, and Guardini™s little book on the
Heilbringer of 1946 offered useful points of departure.24 More recently, Karl
Popper seems to be making a comeback.25 The point is that German histori-
ography evolved out of contemporary thought on National Socialism, which
itself derived from older, competing intellectual traditions; it was, for the most
part, mediated by emigr´ intellectuals.26 Their knowledge of the Soviet Union
and its historiography was virtually nonexistent. German thought on totalitar-
ianism was single-mindedly national despite interwar entendres27 “ an ironic
move further exacerbated by the fact that the only thing that all totalitarian
theorists agreed upon (and this separated their theories from ordinary or “vul-
gar” Marxist theories of fascism) was that National Socialism formed in one
way or another an exceptional regime.
Compared to the “theoretical” excitement and the universalizing intellec-
tual horizon of the German debate, Soviet studies was more indebted to pol-
itics and to political-science formalism, mechanically reproducing Friedrich™s
and Zbigniew Brzezinki™s infamous six characteristics of totalitarianism.28 The
latter focused research on party structure, “levers of control,” ideology, pro-
paganda, and the leadership cult, as well as on police and labor camps, and
imposed, at least in the view of its detractors, an insufferable straitjacket on
Soviet studies in the ¬rst postwar decades. In actuality, however, there was a sig-
ni¬cant amount of interdisciplinary work, most notably the big Harvard Project

Ernst Fraenkel et al., The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship (New York

and London: Oxford University Press, 1941). Among the other authors of the above text was
Edward Shils. Franz L. Neumann, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism
(Toronto and New York: Oxford University Press, 1942); Theodor W. Adorno et al., The
Authoritarian Personality, 1st ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1950).
Eric Voegelin, Die politischen Religionen (Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1939); Eric

Voegelin et al., eds., Politische Religion? Politik, Religion und Anthropologie im Werk von Eric
Voegelin (Munich: Fink, 2003); Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, Faith and Political Philosophy:
The Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934“1964, trans. Peter Emberley
and Barry Cooper (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993); Raymond Aron,
“L™avenir des religions s´ culi` res [1944],” Commentaire 8, no. 28“9 (1985): 369“83; Romano
e e
Guardini, Der Heilbringer in Mythos, Offenbarung und Politik: Eine theologisch-politische
Besinnung (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1946).
Karl Raimund Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 vols. (London: G. Routledge &

Sons, 1945); Marc-Pierre Moll, Gesellschaft und totalitare Ordnung: Eine theoriegeschichtliche
Auseinandersetzung mit dem Totalitarismus (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1998); I. C. Jarvie and
Sandra Pralong, eds., Popper™s Open Society after Fifty Years: The Continuing Relevance of
Karl Popper (London; New York: Routledge, 1999).
Anson Rabinbach, “Moments of Totalitarianism,” History & Theory 45 (2006): 72“100.

¨ ¨
Karl Eimermacher, Astrid Volpert, and Gennadij A. Bordiugov, Sturmische Aufbruche und

enttauschte Hoffnungen: Russen und Deutsche in der Zwischenkriegszeit (Munich: W. Fink,
Friedrich and Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy.
Introduction 7

headed by Alex Inkeles, Raymond A. Bauer, and Clyde Kluckhohn that com-
bined political scientists with sociologists, anthropologists, and even psychol-
ogists.29 The contributors to the Harvard Project were interested in the total-
itarian model as a way of understanding political structures and processes as,
for example, in How the Soviet System Works.30 However, they were equally
interested in everyday life, seen through the prism of modernization theory.
Indeed, modernization theory was highly in¬‚uential in the development of
U.S. Sovietology. Thus, in The Soviet Citizen: Daily Life in a Totalitarian
Society, Inkeles and his collaborators implicitly compared the Soviet Union
both with other modernizing states, like Japan and Turkey, and with states
that had already modernized, like Britain and Germany.31 If you learned your
Sovietology in the 1960s, you were almost as likely to develop an interest in
modernization theory as in totalitarianism, given that Barrington Moore held
more sway over ¬rst-generation totalitarian theorists than either Friedrich or
In the 1970s, the challenge to the totalitarian model by political scientists
like Jerry Hough placed the early Soviet experience (from the Revolution at
least up to the Second World War) ¬rmly in the context of modernization and
eschewed the Nazi-Soviet comparison because of its Cold War politicization.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, another comparison, deeply unsettling to many,
lurked on the fringes of political scientists™ discussion of the Soviet political
system “ the comparison with the United States. For some, this comparison was
based on ideas of gradual but inexorable convergence of the two systems as
the Soviet Union modernized.32 For others, the point of the comparison was to
¬nd out how well Western social-science categories, like “interest groups” and
“participation” (usually derived from U.S. experience, but claiming universal
applicability), applied to the Soviet situation.33 For a third group from the New
Left, it was to convey an understanding that the United States was, in its own
way, “totalitarian.”34

For a description of the project, see Alex Inkeles and Raymond Bauer, The Soviet Citizen: Daily

Life in a Totalitarian Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), 3“20.
Raymond A. Bauer, Alex Inkeles, and Clyde Kluckhohn, How the Soviet System Works: Cul-

tural, Psychological, and Social Themes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956).
Inkeles and Bauer, The Soviet Citizen.

“Convergence” of Soviet and Western systems was much discussed, ¬rst by economists and then

by political scientists; most Sovietologists, especially those in political science, took a critical
stance. See the exchange of opinions in the Congress for Cultural Freedom journal Survey no.
47 (April 1963), 36“42; Alfred G. Meyer, “Theories of Convergence” in Change in Communist
Systems, ed. Chalmers Johnson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1970), 36“42; Daniel
Nelson, “Political Convergence: An Empirical Assessment,” World Politics 30, no. 3 (1978),
Jerry F. Hough, The Soviet Union and Social Science Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni-

versity Press, 1977).
Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Society (Boston:

Beacon Press, 1964) and id., “Repressive Tolerance,” in Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore
Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), 95“137.
Michael Geyer

All of this happened not so long ago; yet these debates sound as if they
occurred on a different planet. The intensity of the debate and the vitriol
expended and, not least, the blinders that some academics wore have now
become subjects of a history in their own right. These academics produced
distinctive histories and theories, all written within the penumbra of World
War II and the Cold War and ineluctably marked by these wars.35 Their import
at the time is perhaps as striking as their ephemeral nature today. The debates
on fascism and on totalitarianism were part and parcel of a receding world of
the twentieth century, which in hindsight appears as tantalizing as it is remote.
If historians were divided about the merits of theories of totalitarianism,
they have been even less enthusiastic about using totalitarianism as an ana-
lytical tool.36 They found that the totalitarian model “ with its claim of a
monolithic, ef¬cient state and of a dogmatically held, mind-altering ideology “
did not describe, much less explain, historic reality. It appeared as an overly
mechanistic model foisted upon them by political scientists. Time and again,
historians have come away disenchanted from the concept because it proved
unhelpful in articulating new research questions and in organizing empirical
¬ndings. Moreover, with the deescalation of the Cold War in the context of
East-West d´ tente, the time seemed right to leave behind concepts and ideas
that had a distinctly polemical, if not outright ideological, quality. Empirical
historians, in particular, came to consider terms and concepts like totalitarian-
ism contaminated by their Cold War exploitation.37
Therefore, the demobilization of militant and militarized European politics
during the last quarter of the twentieth century provided an unusual opening
for empirical historians. Whatever grander ambitions may have driven them,
they have since had their way for thirty-odd years, free from all manner of
ideological and theoretical entanglements. German historians were much better
off, as they had open access to archives and have systematically used them since
the 1970s. Soviet historians, by contrast, have had and continue to have more
dif¬culties, but they have made tremendous strides in the past decade and a
half. Historians now know a great deal more about Nazism and Stalinism than
was ever known before and most of their ¬ndings have been tested repeatedly
against an ever broader stream of sources. This research-oriented, scholarly
community remains, for the most part, in a posttheoretical and posttotalitarian

Abbott Gleason, Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War (New York and Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 1995).
Typically Ian Kershaw, “Totalitarianism Revisited: Nazism and Stalinism in Comparative

Perspective,” Tel Aviver Jahrbuch fur deutsche Geschichte 33 (1994): 23“40; Ian Kershaw,
The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation (London and New York:
Arnold, 2000).
Institut fur Zeitgeschichte, ed., Totalitarismus und Faschismus: Eine wissenschaftliche und

politische Begriffskontroverse: Kolloquium im Institut fur Zeitgeschichte am 24. November
1978 (Munich and Vienna: Oldenbourg, 1980).
Introduction 9

There is much disagreement, even between the editors, whether or not this
is a good state of affairs. But in the end, the tempers and bents of historians are
neither here nor there. For whether coming from a more theoretical or a more
empirical end, all historians have rediscovered the immensity of the mountain
that they set out to scale. Whatever else may be said about Nazi Germany and
the Stalinist Soviet Union, they were two immensely powerful, threatening, and
contagious dictatorships that for a long moment in a short century threatened to
turn the world upside down. Empirical historians mainly worked over and
disposed of older concepts and ideas of totalitarianism (and, for that matter, of
fascism), but their own research only made the two regimes stand out even more
clearly. Hence, making sense of the Stalinist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany,
with the much expanded empirical work at hand, has become of paramount
importance. These two regimes may be the grand losers of twentieth-century
history, but they exerted tremendous power over the century nonetheless “ and
continue to do so long after their defeat and collapse, respectively.
Telling metaphors were coined for this condition “ Europe was a Dark Con-
tinent in an Age of Extremes.38 But despite a tremendous wealth of research,
neither of the two historiographies ever managed to sustain such encompass-
ing metaphors, let alone employ them productively. History has for the most
part remained national “ and devoid of grand narratives or grand explana-
tions. Unfortunately, this leaves us with an empirical history that is, by and
large, parochial despite its broader ambitions. There is a price to pay for this
self-limitation. With few exceptions, Soviet and German historians have not
studied each other™s work, although they have eyed each other from a distance,
never quite losing the sense and sensibility that in a better and more transparent
world, in which everyone knew each other™s history, they might actually learn
from one another “ and in learning from one another might possibly achieve a
better understanding of the tremendous fear and awe that both the Stalinist and


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