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Totalitarianism is a political system, where the state wants to totally regulate every aspect of public and private life. In practice, the term is used to highlight supposed similarities between fascism (broad sense) and communism, or, more narrowly, between National Socialist Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. This usage can be partially seen as a form of guilt by association, which was especially popular during the Cold War.

While Stalin's Soviet Union did control every aspect of life, totalitarianism as a supposed system in National Socialist Germany can be seen as problematic for reasons such as the large private sector and limited control over religion.

Rather than being a totally centralized state, power in National Socialist Germany has been argued to have been widely diffused between a number of state and party agencies competing with one another. Furthermore, entire ministries and the German armed forces remained almost or largely free of NSDAP influence. This contributed to an argued surprising degree of "plurality" in cultural and intellectual life.[1]

Regarding whether Italian fascism was totalitarian, see the Fascism article.

Throughout history, there have been numerous non-liberal democratic and very authoritarian regimes that have had state religions controlling many aspects of daily life. Today, there are non-liberal democratic Islamic states with sharia as the official legal system. However, it is usually not considered politically correct to label such states as totalitarian.

See also


  1. A Prominent German Historian Tackles Taboos of Third Reich History