Today’s Totalitarianism offers accessible, academically informed commentary on troubling developments around the globe variously described as fascist, majoritarian, or authoritarian. This website aims to provide a deeper understanding of them that activists, policymakers, legislators, and any member of the general public can use to create more inclusive societies.
We have chosen the term "totalitarianism" carefully to both define and combat systemic efforts in countries to reduce plurality, to demand conformity, and even to occupy peoples' private spaces and personal thoughts. Some may argue that use of this term signifies an overreaction in light of the mid-twentieth century horrors – Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Mao’s China – that gave the term its contemporary meaning. (The term itself originates in Italy in the 1920s with the Fascist movement.) However, if the argument against it is that such horrors have not yet reappeared in earnest, then the normalization of that high benchmark is sufficient evidence that enough has already gone wrong in global politics.
Others may argue that the term lumps together different political situations in a worn out category. However, it is too difficult to ignore the fact that countries in both the Global South and North – from the Philippines to Turkey from Brazil to Hungary from India to the United States from Russia to China – all feature trends that collectively reduce political plurality, demand obedience to centralized authority, and stifle dissent and free speech.
Ironically, most of these cases are premised on democratically elected “Big Men” claiming a mandate from the people. The sad diversity of examples finds coherence as a common phenomenon through certain themes and processes, even if they appear in different permutations and to different degrees; such themes and processes characterized twentieth century totalitarianism as well.
They include, but are not limited to, the following:
simplified narratives of history (along with increased dismissal of facts to the contrary and the spread of false information)
systemic efforts to control public discussion (along with increased censorship and greater regulation of media)
hostility toward indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, women, racialized and casted minorities, the differently abled, and people with alternative gender and sexual orientations (along with an increase in masculine nationalism)
contempt for parliamentary procedures and independent judiciaries (along with an increased acceptance of unconstrained executive authority)
contempt for political plurality (along with an increase in narrowly defined ideas of patriotism, religious piety, and social conduct)
contempt for respectful, civil discourse (along with an increase in fear tactics against and public humiliation of political rivals and of “others”)
pressure toward ideological conformity and the intolerance of intellectual diversity in public and professional life (along with a rise in “anti-elitism” claiming to speak truth to power)
For more, read our inaugural essay “Today’s Totalitarian Menace.”