Rise of Totalitarian Regimes

Rise of Totalitarian Regimes

Totalitarianism

 

One of the most disturbing developments of the Interwar Period, between the two world wars, was the rise of totalitarian regimes across the world. Totalitarianism emerged because of widespread dissatisfaction over the outcome and aftermath of the First World War, in conjunction with the exploitation of the impulse toward political democratization occurring across the world totalitarian leaders. These leaders seized control of countries around the world, playing to popular dissatisfaction, toward the end of pursuing their agendas of national and personal aggrandizement. The rise of such regimes, particularly in Italy, Japan, and Germany, led to disastrous consequences for humanity, first and foremost being the Second World War and the Holocaust. 

 

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain the global challenge to liberalism by totalitarianism through the movements of communism, fascism, and National Socialism.
  • Evaluate the factors that led to the global depression in the 1930s.
  • Compare and contrast the reactions of nations worldwide to this global depression. 

 

Key Terms / Key Concepts

totalitarianism: an approach to government defined by a central authority exercising complete control over a society

Benito Mussolini: fascist leader of World War II Italy and early fascist leader of post-WWI Europe

Adolf Hitler: Nazi leader of World War II Germany, responsible for the Holocaust

 

Totalitarianism

 

After World War I totalitarianism emerged as an approach to government in nations across Eurasia. It was a reaction to the dissatisfaction felt by many citizens in nations where it took hold, including most notably Germany, Italy, and Japan. Totalitarianism is distinct from the absolutist governments of early modern Europe and is defined by the executive branch of a national government, usually the monarchy, enjoying complete control over the government, but not the society. Totalitarianism is also marked by a number of different characteristics, including authoritarianism, national and/or ethnic chauvinism, personality cults, and an industrialized approach to governance. The political developments and organizational and technological advances growing out of the Industrial Revolution made totalitarianism possible. Ironically, the most significant political development that contributed to the rise of totalitarian was the grant of nominal universal male suffrage. Totalitarian leaders such as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler exploited this development, arguing that each had the mandate of his people. Before these developments and advances, during the early modern era, absolutist rulers such as Louis XIV of France could not conceive of totalitarian control over their countries. During the Interwar period totalitarianism took a number of different forms, including fascism and statism, in a range of attitudes toward the governed, from benign to malignant.

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