New PDF release: Modernism and Totalitarianism: Rethinking the Intellectual

By Richard Shorten (auth.)

Modernism and Totalitarianism evaluates a vast variety of post-1945 scholarship. Totalitarianism, because the universal ideological trajectory of Nazism and Stalinism, is dissected as a synthesis of 3 modernist highbrow currents which ensure its specific, inherited character.

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Extra resources for Modernism and Totalitarianism: Rethinking the Intellectual Sources of Nazism and Stalinism, 1945 to the Present

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The structural model rests on the assumption that the principal definitional criterion of totalitarianism concerns methods of rule (as facilitated by the technological reach of the modern state), whereas a rather more plausible candidate for principal definitional criterion is the commission of political mass murder (as facilitated by a combination of some particular ideological resources of modernity). Picking out political mass murder resonates with generally prevalent moral intuitions regarding what it was that was really specific to the Nazi and Stalinist episodes in the twentieth century.

The old order is broken; the new order will be made whole. Modern science will supply not only technology, but also the vital intellectual ingredient to Nazism’s attempt to create a ‘New Man’ – biological racism; and it is biological racism that will, once added to the mix, constitute for Koestler the most salient discontinuity with communism. 36 However, the more important point is that communism does share in the project of ‘anthropological revolution’, the aspiration to reshape the individual in mind, body, and soul,37 albeit with an alternative philosophical basis to that end.

Modern technology will provide the means for fundamentally reshaping the map of Central and Eastern Europe. 21 The discussion dwells, fourthly, on the project simultaneously being carried out in anthropology. 22 Historic victimhood now confers a privileged status. At this point, where the Nazi agent’s attempt to convert Peter slides into more introverted exposition, biological politics intervene explicitly for the first time: ‘We are turning the whole Continent into a biological laboratory’, ‘we are weeding out its streaks of bad heredity’.

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