In the last decade, we have witnessed the return of one of the most controversial terms in the political lexicon: totalitarianism. What are we talking about when we define a totalitarian political and social situation? When did we start using the word as both adjective and noun? And, what totalitarian ghosts haunt the present?
Philosopher Simona Forti seeks to answer these questions by reconstructing not only the genealogy of the concept, but also by clarifying its motives, misunderstandings, and the controversies that have animated its current resurgence. Taking into account political theories and historical discussions, Totalitarianism especially focuses on philosophical reflections, from the question of totalitarian biopolitics to the alleged totalitarian drifts of neoliberalism. The work invites the relentless formulation of a radical question about the democratic age: the possibilities it has opened up, the voids it leaves behind, the mechanisms it activates, and the "voluntary servitude" it produces. Forti argues that totalitarianism cannot be considered an external threat to democracy, but rather as one of the possible answers to those questions posed by modernity which democracies have not been able to solve. Her investigation of the uses and abuses of totalitarianism as one of the fundamental categories of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries promises to provoke much-needed discussion and debate among those in philosophy, politics, ethics, and beyond.
About the author
Simona Forti is Professor of Political Philosophy at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy. She has been Part-Time Faculty at the The New School for Social Research, Visiting Professor at Columbia University, and Fulbright Distinguished Chair Professor at Northwestern University. She is the author of New Demons: Rethinking Power and Evil Today (Stanford, 2014).
"Forti's compact, philosophical discussion of the history of the concept of 'totalitarianism' is the best available in any language. With the ongoing rise of right-wing populists eager to leave 'behind' their totalitarian lineage, this book is more pertinent than ever."
—Miguel Vatter, author of Divine Democracy
"It takes a scholar of both exceptional learning and critical acuity to explain with precision the metamorphoses of an idea as multifaceted and elusive as totalitarianism. This gripping book has particularly urgent and disquieting implications for readers today."
—Alessia Ricciardi, author of Finding Ferrante
"Forti asks us a sharp question, the child of our ambiguous and confused times: why do we need the category of totalitarianism? This book is both beautiful and disturbing. It must be read in one go."
—Nadia Urbinati, author of Me the People