chapter  17
Pages 22

The concept of ideocracy allows researchers to capture important aspects of the functional logic of regimes that would otherwise remain underexposed or even completely unconsidered. For example, it would be impossible to plausibly explain the annihilation of “objective enemies”1 under Hitler and Stalin without recourse to the respective state ideology. Even those who reject the notion of totalitarianism when comparing the Nazi regime under Hitler to the Soviet Union under Stalin and focus on the regime structures (institutions and personal networks) cannot help but emphasize the movement character of both regimes as their primary shared characteristic.2 The enormous mobilization power of the movements that shaped these regimes is, however, not conceivable without the power of the ideologies that drove and plagued them. The chapters of this volume illustrate the fruitfulness of the ideocracy concept for social science and historical research. The first part of this volume contributes to sharpening the contours of the concept of ideocracy and disclosing the remaining problems of its conceptualization. As Uwe Backes establishes in his outline of the conceptual history of ideocracy, the term “ideocracy” is older than “totalitarianism.” However, the lines of evolution of both concepts became closely intertwined in the twentieth century. From the early anti-Fascist concept of the term of the 1920s onwards, “totalitarianism” referred to movements driven by ideas or ideologies that raised a total, unlimited claim to rule by claiming a prerogative of interpretation and aiming with their totalitarian spirit (spirito totalitario3) at the exclusion of all other political forces. This central ideological element of the definition was already included in the older concept of ideocracy.4 The establishment of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century was preceded by ideological currents and political movements that had announced themselves and developed long before. According to Backes, the idea of ideocracy constitutes – like the concept of political religion5 – a connection to older, theocratic rule forms and thereby provides a universally historical

comparative perspective that relativizes the thesis of the historical novelty of totali tarianism often found in the classical works on the concept of totalitarianism.6