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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser


The Origins of Totalitarianism

Hannah Arendt




"Persecution of powerless or power-losing groups may not be a very pleasant spectacle, but it does not spring from human meanness alone. What makes men obey or tolerate real power and, on the other hand, hate people who have wealth without power, is the rational instinct that power has a certain function and is of some general use. Even exploitation and oppression still make society work and establish some kind of order. Only wealth without power or aloofness without a policy are felt to be parasitical, useless, revolting, because such conditions cut all the threads which tie men together." - Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1958)

A similar observation from Francis Fukuyama is that the most dangerous time for governments is when they first give subjects rights. It's as though subjects punish government for giving them freedom, although perhaps it's a reaction to a sudden disparity between the wealth and grandeur of those in government and government's new, slightly less powerful function.