That was then…..
This is now….
The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin coined the term inverted totalitarianism in 2003 to describe what he saw as the emerging form of government of the entire world. Wolin analyzed the world as increasingly turning into a managed democracy. He uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to draw attention to the totalitarian aspects of the political system while emphasizing its differences from proper totalitarianism, such as Nazi and Stalinist regimes.
Every natural resource and living being is commodified and exploited by large corporations to the point of collapse as excess consumerism and sensationalism lull and manipulate the citizenry into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government.
While the versions of totalitarianism represented by traditional Nazism and Fascism consolidated power by suppressing liberal political practices that had sunk only shallow cultural roots, inverted totalitarianism represents a drive towards totality that draws from the setting where liberalism and democracy have been established for more than two centuries. It is Nazism turned upside-down, “Neo-fascism.” While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”
Comparison to classical totalitarian regimes
Inverted totalitarianism shares similarities with classical totalitarianism, like Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. First of all, both regimes are totalitarian because they tend to dominate as much as possible. Both regimes use fear, preemptive wars and elite domination, but inverted and classical totalitarianism deviate in several important ways:
- Revolution – While the classical totalitarian regimes overthrew the established system, inverted totalitarianism instead exploits the legal and political constraints of the established democratic system and uses these constraints to defeat their original purpose.
- Government – Whereas the classical totalitarian government was an ordered, idealized and coordinated whole, inverted totalitarianism is a managed democracy which applies managerial skills to basic democratic political institutions.
- Propaganda and dissent – Although propaganda plays an essential role in both the United States and Nazi Germany, the role it plays in the United States is inverted; that is, American propaganda “is only in part a state-centered phenomenon”. Whereas the production of propaganda was crudely centralized in Nazi Germany, in the United States it is left to highly concentrated media corporations and thus maintaining the illusion of a “free press”. According to this model, dissent is allowed, though the corporate media serve as a filter, allowing most people, with limited time available to keep themselves apprised of current events, to hear only points of view that the corporate media deem “serious”.
- Democracy – Whereas the classical totalitarian regimes overthrew weak democracies/regimes, inverted totalitarianism has developed from a strong democracy. The United States even maintains its democracy is the model for the whole world.
Inverted totalitarianism reverses things. It is all politics all of the time but politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash.
- Ideology – Inverted totalitarianism deviates from the Nazi regime as to ideology, i.e. cost-effectiveness versus master race.
- Economy – In Nazi Germany, the state-dominated the economic actors whereas in inverted totalitarianism corporations through lobbying, political contributions and the revolving door dominate the United States, with the government acting as the servant of large corporations. This is considered “normal” rather than corrupt.
- Nationalism – While Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were nationalistic, inverted totalitarianism is a global superpower based on global exchange of jobs, culture and commodities.
- The people – While the classical totalitarian regimes aimed at the constant political mobilization of the populace, inverted totalitarianism aims for the mass of the populace to be in a persistent state of political apathy. The only type of political activity expected or desired from the citizenry is voting. Low electoral turnouts are favorably received as an indication that the bulk of the populace has given up hope that the government will ever significantly help them.
- Punishment – While the classical totalitarian regimes punished harshly (imprisoning or killing political or ideological opponents and scapegoats), inverted totalitarianism in particular punishes by means of an economy of fear (minimizing social security, busting unions, outdating skills, outsourcing jobs and so on).
- Leader – While the classical totalitarian regimes had charismatic leaders that were the architects of the state, inverted totalitarianism does not depend on a certain leader, but produces its leaders who are akin to corporate leaders.
- Social policy – While Nazism made life uncertain for the wealthy and privileged and had a social policy for the working class, inverted totalitarianism exploits the poor by reducing health and social programs and weakening working conditions.