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1938,[1] from totalitarian +‎ -ism, modeled after Italian totalitarismo (1923, by Giovanni Amendola) and German terms such as Totalstaat (1927, The Concept of the Political, by Carl Schmitt).


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totalitarianism (countable and uncountable, plural totalitarianisms)

  1. A system of government in which the people have virtually no authority and the state wields absolute control, for example, a dictatorship.

Usage notesEdit

Contentious usage: precise definition, application to specific cases, and distinction from similar terms varies by author. Narrowly, a government in which everything is political and controlled by the state, coined to describe fascism, in contrast to the older terms and concepts of autocracy, dictatorship, and tyranny, which focus more on centralization of power, not its pervasiveness. Later applied to communism by right-wingers and Stalinism by other communists and socialists, to emphasize its commonalities with fascism and Nazism. Sometimes considered an extreme form of authoritarianism, in other cases contrasted with it.

Related termsEdit



  1. ^ The Communist International (1938), by Franz Borkenau is cited by Nemoianu, Virgil, Review of End and Beginnings pages 1235-1238 from MLN, Volume 97, Issue # 5, December 1982, p.1235.