Totalitarianism and the Modern Conception of Politics
Totalitarianism, the political nightmare of the twentieth century, haunts all contemporary discussion about the right relation between politics and culture. In revisiting totalitarianism, Michael Halberstam's project is to surface hidden fault lines separating competing philosophical approaches to this debate. He succeeds in exposing otherwise incomprehensible differences between liberalism and its critics on the left and the right.Halberstam argues that neither liberalism nor totalitarianism can be understood without the other. Liberalism reflects the modern conception of politics: a vision of society as a human construct answering to an unprecedented valorization of freedom. The liberal attempt to emancipate politics from culture, however, risks a loss of shared meaning that totalitarianism promises to repair. The author thus reveals how the idea of totalitarianism embodies truths and contradictions about liberalism itself. The philosophical heart of the book is a critical development of Immanuel Kant's theory of reflective, aesthetic judgment, exposing the limits of reason and taking up what Hannah Arendt's unfinished work suggests. This rich study in the history of modern political thought from Hobbes through Marx and to the present, culminates with a new and surprising interpretation of Arendt's theory of totalitarianism.
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