(noun) A system of centralized government in which the state has total authority over society and manipulates all aspects of culture including the arts, in order to control the private lives and morality of its citizens.

Audio Pronunciation: (to·tal·i·tar·ian·ism)

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Usage Notes:

  • Totalitarianism is an extreme form of authoritarianism.
  • Totalitarianism uses cultural and moral effort to control the citizenry, while authoritarianism is based on submission to authority by the citizenry to a powerful cadre of leaders.
  • The possibility of totalitarianism ever existing or if it even could exist is oft discussed and fodder for fiction, including Ray Bradbury’s (1920–2012) Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and George Orwell’s (1903–1950) 1984 (1949).
  • Orwell ushered many terms into the communal lexicon, such as Big Brother, doublethink, and thoughtcrime.
  • Also called:
    • totalism
    • totalitarian rule

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