Inverted totalitarianism

From Wikispooks
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Concept.png Inverted totalitarianism 
(Totalitarianism,  Police state)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Interest ofSheldon Wolin

Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by Sheldon Wolin in 2003.


Wolin argues that the United States is increasingly totalitarian as a result of repeated military mobilizations: to fight the Axis powers in the 1940s, to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War and to fight the War on Terror after the September 11 attacks.[1][2]

Wolin describes this development toward inverted totalitarianism in terms of two conflicting political power centers, namely the constitutional imaginary and the power imaginary. Wolin speaks of imaginaries to include political tendencies as well as existing political conditions. He explains:

A political imaginary involves going beyond and challenging current capabilities, inhibitions, and constraints regarding power and its proper limits and improper uses. It envisions an organization of resources, ideal as well as material, in which a potential attributed to them becomes a challenge to realize it.[3]

Wolin explains that the constitutional imaginary "prescribes the means by which power is legitimated, accountable and constrained".[4] Referring to Thomas Hobbes, Wolin understands the power imaginary as a quest for power that is rationalized by fear of collective mortality. The power imaginary may "undermine or override the boundaries mandated in the constitutional imaginary"[3] through fears of a dangerous enemy:

A power imaginary is usually accompanied by a justifying mission ("to defeat communism" or "to hunt out terrorists wherever they may hide") that requires capabilities measured against an enemy whose powers are dynamic but whose exact location indeterminate. [4]

The power imaginary does not only reduce democracy within the United States, it also promotes the United States as a "Superpower" that develops and expands its current position as the only global superpower:

While the versions of totalitarianism represented by Nazism and Fascism consolidated power by suppressing liberal political practices that had sunk only shallow cultural roots, Superpower represents a drive towards totality that draws from the setting where liberalism and democracy have been established for more than two centuries. It is Nazism turned upside-down, "inverted totalitarianism." While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a "master race" (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the "ideal."[5]

Wikipedia.png This page imported content from Wikipedia on 28 January 2022.
Wikipedia is not affiliated with Wikispooks.   Original page source here


Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Sheldon S. Wolin, (2008)

  1. Wolin 2008, p. 70.
  2. Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class, pages 14, 23–24, 25–26, 196, 200–1
  3. a b Wolin 2008, p. 18.
  4. a b Wolin 2008, p. 19.
  5. Wolin 2004, p. 591.