In the chapter “States of Exception” from Beyond Totalitarianism, by Mark Edele and Michael Geyer, the question of the Eastern Front of World War II is tackled. The most particularly fascinating thing about this study is the unprecedented ruthlessness of the respective campaigns and how they escalated drastically in their unrestrained violence. The separation drawn between the projected measures to be used in accordance with the military planning of the German invasion into the Soviet Union and the actualities of the war (excessive violence with no regard for the humanity of the opposing side) is notable throughout the chapter as a major theme, as it reveals quite a bit about the methods of warfare each country resorted to in the conflict.… Read the rest here
Author Archives: maltzd
Conflict of Perceptions: Intentionalists vs. Structuralists
In Nicholas Stargardt’s “The Holocaust” and Ian Kershaw’s “Hitler and the Holocaust”, many different interpretations as to the relationship between Hitler’s personal agenda and the “Final Solution” are presented. The two prevailing modes of thought in regards to Hitler’s influence in the mass extermination of the Jews within these texts are the “intentionalist” perspective and the “structuralist” perspective.
The “intentionalist” thinkers seek to place Hitler as the main fountain from which the anti-Semitic actions of the Nazi regime spilled forth.… Read the rest here
Terror and Surveillance
“Surveillance means that the population is watched; terror means that its members are subject on an unpredictable but large-scale basis to arrest, execution, and other forms of state violence.”1 This is the theme of Chapter 8 of Sheila Fitzpatrick’s Everyday Stalinism, in which the modes of Soviet public repression and purging are explored in detail.
The development of the Communist “Great Purges” in the 1930s was a self-propelling loop of suspicion, witch-hunts, and above all else, terror.… Read the rest here
The chapter “Public Works” from Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals covers the transformation of undeveloped land through industrial means as a form of social mobilization. It is first explained that all major powers looked to the Soviet Union’s collectivism for inspiration. Prior to the Great Depression, Western countries perceived the Soviet agenda as “fantasy”- but as capitalism failed those countries leading up the the 1930s, they began to imitate Soviet policies.1
Fascism in Italy was the first to take the reigns on this matter through the project of the Agro Pontino.… Read the rest here
State of the Fascist State
In Leeds’s The Fascist State, the public acts and social requirements of Italian Fascism are explored in minor detail. Within the text we see various accounts of the principles held dear to the fascist government and the policies Mussolini implemented (often in bizarre and ludicrous ways) in the attempt to realize those principles.
Perhaps the most intriguing segment of the chapter is the bit about the “battle of natality”; that is, Mussolini’s attempts at increasing the population of Italy by providing incentives for his people to procreate.… Read the rest here
By What Modes? Politicism Under Stalin and Hitler
In traditional examinations of the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin, the singular point of focus is the complete domination that the two leaders exerted over their people. However, one particular that is often left out of the comparison is how the regimes functioned in conjunction with the respective parties of the two states. Similar arguments are found in Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals – a comparison of Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini’s state-building practices – and Yoran Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen’s article “The Political (Dis)Orders of Stalinism and National Socialism”, an in-depth look at the striking differences between the Nazis and the Soviets.… Read the rest here
Through-Lining Historical Perspectives: The Approach of an Historiographer
Wilson Bell’s article on the machinations of the Gulag draws from and interprets a great many viewpoints, with the primary argument being that though the term “Gulag” has been used to encompass a wide berth of topics, its primary use is to describe the Stalin-era concentration camps. Bell touches on various points of contention between different historiographers while attempting to find common threads of agreement that can stand on their own as fact in relation to the topic of the Gulag.… Read the rest here
The Dormancy of “Aberration”
In the first chapter of Zygmunt Bauman’s “Modernity and the Holocaust”, multiple perspectives are provided regarding the relationship between modernity and the Holocaust. Bauman begins by refuting the concept of the Holocaust- or any major sociological development, for that matter- as a singular “event” that can be scrutinized in terms of the multitude of historical elements that contributed to its development. Rather, he projects the idea that unless we revise our sociological perspective on the past, we will never see it as anything but “a unique but fully determined product of a particular concatenation of social and psychological factors” (4).… Read the rest here