HomeIAMURE International Journal of Literature, Philosophy and Religionvol. 1 no. 1 (2012)

Totalitarian Banality of Evil in Hannah Arendt's Thought

Jonas Robert L. Miranda

Discipline: Literature, Philosophy



This paper is an exposition of Hannah Arendt's idea of ‘Totalitarian Banality of Evil.' Her understanding of totalitarianism based on the regimes of Nazism and Stalinism is unique in the sense that according to her assessment totalitarianism is geared towards human destruction. These regimes deprived citizens of the necessary human conditions of plurality and spontaneity to give way for their ultimate aim of ‘total domination.' Terror, which is the essence of totalitarianism, made ‘total domination' as a method of rule possible. As a consequence, the constituents were made like Ivan Pavlov's dogs: pervertedly predictable and devoid of spontaneity. The interesting fact is that even if the consequences of the totalitarian regime were characterized by atrocities, the perpetrators considered them meaningful. Totalitarian decrees even if loaded with evilness were seen as part of translating ideology into reality. These ideologies, Racism for the Nazis and Communism among the Stalinists, were very popular that their adherents interpreted the real events according to their logic. This phenomenon, for Hannah Arendt, marked the fullness of false politics. Her political idea is an influence of the Greek polis, where plural opinions were treasured. Plurality, instead of being cultivated in totalitarianism, was the primary target of the attack.