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The Origins Of Totalitarian Democracy, Political Theory And Practice During The French Revolution And Beyond

1577 words - 6 pages

There are different attitudes towards politics

The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, Political Theory and Practice during the French Revolution and beyond

J.L Talmon

The author, Talmon, states that there are different democracy attitudes towards politics. The liberal approach assumes politics to reach through a matter of trial and error a state of ideal harmony, and the totalitarian approach is based upon the assumption of a unique and exclusive truth in politics (messianism). Political messianism recognizes only one level of existence, the political. It treats all human thoughts and actions as having a social significance.

It is a fact both schools underlie the value of liberty. Though, the totalitarian school believes liberty is a collective purpose, while the liberal school finds the essence of freedom in spontaneity and the absence of coercion.

From the same basis of the formation of liberal democracy (the French Revolution in the eighteen century), was born what Talmon called the "Totalitarian Democracy". Talmon refers to the existing paradox of freedom of totalitarian democracy in the sense of the difficulties of reconciling freedom with the extreme forms of popular sovereignty. Therefore, the idea of an absolute purpose quickly comes into the problems of totalitarian democracy.

Totalitarian democracy is an integral part of Western tradition in the 18th century after French Revolution. It brings about a new idea, which the past conditions should be replaced by deliberately planned uniform patterns. It was a result of the decline of the traditional order in Europe. For the first time, there was homogeneous society, where no different levels of social life or membership of a class and citizenship were present. Standard judgement was expressed in the idea of general good and the framework for all activity was the nation.

The 18th has some characteristics in social and political matter: the privacy of creative experience and feeling was to be swamped with one collective emotion; secular religion came face to face in a conflict between liberty and virtue and the result was great schism; totalitarian messianism hardened into exclusive doctrine, the social and economic based on ethical premises; the question of property which says that political messianism wasn't economic but ethical and political; physiocratic combination of absolutism in politics with the laissez-faire theory in economics; the postulate of salvation implied in the idea of the natural order; the principle of virtuous liberty to the passion for security; the ideology of the rising bourgeoisie was transformed into that of the proletariat.

The modern totalitarian democracy is a dictatorship based on ideology and the enthusiasm of the masses. It is the outcome of the synthesis between the 18th century idea of the natural order and the Rousseauist idea of popular fulfilment and self-expression.


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