Tragédia antitotalitariánov: Pokus o historiografickú katharsis

The Tragedy of the Anti-Totalitarians: An Attempt at Historiographical Catharsis

This text is a thought piece designed to reflect on the word "totalitarianism" as both a heuristic and an existential category. In addition to critiquing the category through a narrative of its genesis and its relationship to the category of "modernity," this text goes on to suggest that the category is fundamentally counterproductive to the scholarly and moral concerns evident particularly in the work of Hannah Arendt. Following Anson Rabinbach, this text argues that one can only apply the term "totalitarianism" with respect to "moments of totalitarianism." Attention to such moments minimizes the political content of the intellectual and scholarly project of antitotalitarianism, underscoring instead the fact that monolithic usage of the term "totalitarianism" masks moments of human agony, both individual and collective. Through speech-acts or even simple attention to the human dimension of historical memory, scholarship devoted to moments of totalitarianism can move beyond the category's misuses and pitfalls, bearing witness without manifesting self-righteousness.