Methodological Shortcomings in Hannah Arendt’s Conceptualization of Totalitarianism

  • Antony Kalashnikov University of Alberta
Keywords: Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism


The political philosopher Hannah Arendt was partly responsible for popularizing the term 'totalitarianism'. In doing so, Arendt followed a historically-grounded, analytical approach, methodically deriving the concept from the cases of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. This essay will argue that Arendt’s conceptualization of totalitarianism is imperfect, because of some crucial methodological shortcomings in her analysis. In demonstrating this, I will briefly explicate Arendt's methodology and argument, and critique her concept in so far as it is: grounded in too few cases, the cases are dubiously linked, and the analysis is heedless of a functionalist understanding of ideology.