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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

Matter Changing States

The Origins of Totalitarianism

Hannah Arendt




- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1958)

It occurs to me totalitarianism might be the natural state of concentrated humans, or at least concentrations without political restraints. In high enough densities, individualism is lost to the mob -- similar to physical matter changing states with temperature -- and ideas must be acted on with all the thought and reflection possible during a stampede. The form of political organization has only been known after the industrial revolution, but perhaps only then could masses be sufficiently concentrated and confined. (Counter to this conjecture, high population densities are common globally but totalitarianism has been rare.)

I used to think totalitarianism was a country's military 'enlisting' the whole population, but it is much less organized than that, with no clear structure or stable chain of command. Most soldiers maintain a level of individuality, which is intolerable in cult-like totalitarianism.

From a lunar perspective, at least totalitarian organizations, provided they are restrained from spreading globally, will burn out eventually. You can only purge so many until the population density necessary to sustain herd mentality is gone.