what are the key terms in Hannah Arendt essay The Origins of Totalitarianism ? The Origins of Totalitarianism ?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that some of the basic and most key terms out of Arendt's essay comes with how she constructs her argument about the nature of centralized rule.  The "homelessness" Arendt brings out regarding Jewish people helps to establish the basis of what she sees as totalitarianism in Europe.  For Arendt, the lack of a political state of being is where she sees the greatest amount of challenge that Jewish people faced and what helped to contribute to the political targeting of the Jewish population in Europe.  In Arendt's work, the concept of “expansion for expansion’s sake”  helped to further strengthen the hold the state had over the lives of its citizens.  Arendt makes the point that with the increase in imperialism and the necessity for centralized authority to become more expansive, the propensity of government totalitarianism became more of a reality that European nations experienced.  The phrase “expansion for expansion’s sake”  helps to make clear the idea that nation building through imperialism was more of an exercise of power than anything related to national interest.  The "executing orders" concept is a term that Arendt uses to explain how the totalitarian state can advance.  It is one that prides itself on the complete submission of the body politic.  Arendt uses this phrase or term to bring out how the centralized government can only sustain when individuals are committed to it in terms of obedience and adherence and nothing in terms of the voice of dissent.


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