The interpretations of Nazi totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Eric Voegelin / by Clifford F. Porter.
Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Eric Voegelin thought that Modernity was inextricably connected with the rise of totalitarianism. They each defined Modernity, modern philosophy, and totalitarianism somewhat differently, but they fundamentally agreed that the conditions of the early twentieth century allowed the Nazis to seize power and create a dictatorship of unparalleled violence and destruction that was even championed by many intellectuals. Arendt, Strauss, and Voegelin each had compelling—even dramatic—personal experiences of suffering because of the Nazis. They, nonetheless, held almost incompatibly differing views from each other about what totalitarianism was. Arendt developed an existentialist interpretation of totalitarianism. Strauss thought that totalitarianism was better understood as a modern form of classical tyranny, and modern tyranny was directly related to the abandonment of classical conceptions of natural right by modern Liberalism. Voegelin interpreted Nazi totalitarianism as the outgrowth of a spiritual failure in modernity to recognize transcendental reality and the desire of ideological extremists to find a complete and immanent explanation of human existence. A discussion of the agreements and disagreements between Arendt, Strauss, and Voegelin helps to illuminate the issues and problems associated with studying Nazi totalitarianism. The concentration camps are the most dramatic manifestation of totalitarianism and dominate the thought of Arendt. Strauss and Voegelin sought, instead, to understand how men could be motivated to justify the necessity of the camps. Voegelin and Arendt disagreed over whether the ideology was essentially a rationalization or the actual cause for the concentration camps to become death camps. Voegelin concluded that the ideology led to the death camps. What becomes evident in this study is that the role of ideology in totalitarianism implied the logical progression toward a moral justification for violence and, ultimately, genocide.
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