Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fear and Terror

When Hannah Arendt described totalitarianism, I was interested in the distinction between fear and terror. Fear seems to be described as a threatening emotion used to force people to obey to the law in a society and terror suggests fear beyond simply forcing people to obey the government. Terror is described as being constantly present, even when people don't need to be forced to do things anymore. Since terror is the essence of totalitarianism and in this system there are no guides for human behavior, would fear still be present in totalitarianism?


  1. If I'm understanding the reading correctly, fear seems to be a lesser form of terror. Arendt seems to describe fear as something that functions between men, wether that be between subject and ruler, or father and son, or any other type of man to man relationship. Terror, however, seems to function between all of mankind and nature/history. Arendt's description of terror actually reminds me of Kant's idea of antagonism, the way that it pushes evolution forward, though Arendt makes the point that terror doesn't necessarily function in man's favor like Kant would argue antagonism ultimately does. So, to answer your question (finally), I think that fear would still be present in totalitarianism because it happens in the type of man to man relationships that definitely still exist under totalitarianism.

  2. Angelica I think it's interesting what you're saying here because I was thinking along the same lines when trying to differentiate between the two. I think the key different is that fear is a momentary sensation in a totalitarian society of needing to obey to a distinct situation whereas terror is an overarching control which is what you're saying as well. Therefore in extreme situations like this I think it is a combination of the two in totalitarianism to keep people constantly on their toes with fear, while instilling the dark undertones of dehumanization to constantly demean and terrorize people. I don't really think one can exist without the other to accomplish the harsh goals that totalitarianism tries to achieve.

  3. In today's discussion, we talked about the terror present in the Stalinist totalitarian regime. I found it hard to see past the contradiction between a unified totalitarian body and the inherent presence of individual fear among the entire population. In regards to the totalitarian ideology of the Nazi party, it is clear that the unified mass shares a common "other," however in the Stalinist society, the other is seen in every member of the society. How, then, do the fundamentals of totalitarian ideology stay intact? If every member of the culture is in a constant state of terror, specifically fear of others who exist under the same Soviet Union, the "unified body" characteristic seems to be undermined. However, if totalitarianism and terror are linked, the Stalinist Soviet Union seems to have created a new type of totalitarian state. The Great Purge inspired domestic terror, which led to servility, as opposed to the unified fear and common enemy of the state under Hitler.


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