14 Pages

Introduction: Some Preliminary Definitions

Arendt's report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961-62, Eichmann in Jerusalem, is subtitled 'A Report on the Banality of Evil', because that is what she thought she saw pre-eminently represented by Eichmann. The present currency of the actual term 'totalitarianism' largely derives from Hannah Arendt's great study, first published in 1951, on The Origins of Totalitarianism. The animal laborans is one whose whole attitude to public life is determined by the experience of labour, who remains trapped within the essential banality of that experience, and whose political ideal is therefore just the provision for a maximum of luxurious consumption. But then, again, homo faber is by no means immune. For, of course, totalitarian movements need not only have low-brow appeal; they may also have high-brow appeal. Again, of course, at one level the liberal economic tradition stemming from Smith represents an absolute antithesis to totalitarianism.