Since its conceptual development in 1920s, totalitarianism has been in existence in various movements all through history. Passerini (2017) defines totalitarianism as a political system whereby all authority is bestowed on the state. Within a totalitarian society, the regulation of both the private and public life are in the hands of the government. Totalitarianism is the actual opposite of democracy. The state leadership controls almost all the facets of the government, from social to economical to cultural and political aspects. Some of the totalitarian states include; Nazi Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, North Korea under the leadership of Kim Dynasty, and Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin, among others.
In the totalitarian states, the citizens are denied certain rights. Unlike in the democratic societies, the citizens who live within the totalitarian societies have their freedom of speech restricted (Ducker 2017). They are not allowed to express themselves freely, and if they have to, then whatever they say must not be a criticism towards the authorities or how the leaders run the state. According to Ducker (2017), totalitarian states are characterized by far-reaching political authoritarianism, absence of democracy, complete authority over the economy, and prevalent state-terrorism, among others. Furthermore, in their bid to secure their positions and curb any threats, the totalitarian administrations use tyrannical secret police, widespread exercise of capital punishment, falsified elections, religious oppression, state skepticism and massacres. Kamenka (2017) considers a totalitarian society as one which recognizes no parameters to the authority it exercises, but spreads that authority to whatsoever dimension viable.
Some scholars argue that in most totalitarian states where the citizens’ rights are suppressed, the ‘ideal’ aspect of the citizens becomes invisible. Kravchenko (2019) defines an ideal citizen as one who works towards ensuring that his country develops either economically, socially or politically. An ideal citizen follows the rules set by the society, as he lives peacefully with his neighbors. In everything he does, he values his nation before himself, therefore, whatever action he takes, he must think of how it will impact the nation. An ideal citizen is law-abiding and treasured asset to the state.
As discussed earlier, totalitarian leaders are tyrannical, in other words, only their opinions count when it comes to government decisions. Nevertheless, one of the most important ways a citizen can influence government decisions is through voting. Voting is the formal process of choosing a preferred candidate for a government position (Anderson 2018). Even so, there are still those citizens who fail to take part in casting their votes. This is what is considered ‘voter apathy’. Anderson (2018) defines voter apathy as the lack of interest by the citizen voters to participate in elections. In those states where voting is compulsory, voter apathy may be marked by the high quantity of spoilt ballot votes; while in states where voting is not compulsory, voter apathy can be expressed by low voter turnout on the day of the election. Failing to vote as a citizen, can be consequential, depending on the state rules. In some states, for example, if a voter fails to vote in at least three elections, their right to vote can be lost for up to 10 years. Sometimes, a non-voter can find it hard being employed in the public sector.
Certain governments have put up measures of ensuring that all eligible voters turn out to vote on the elections day (Anderson 2018). They do this by making the Election Day a public holiday, so that the citizens do not go to work, to cast their votes. Some states also conduct public awareness and encourage voters to turn out in large numbers, prior to the voting day.
Anderson, M. (2018). Combating Voter Apathy within the Rising Electorate in the United States.
Drucker, P. (2017). The end of economic man: The origins of totalitarianism. Routledge.
Kamenka, E. (2017). Totalitarianism. A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, 821- 829.
Kravchenko, Z. (2019). The invention of the ideal citizen. Borderlands in European Gender Studies: Beyond the East–West Frontier, 33.
Passerini, L. (2017). Memory and totalitarianism. Routledge.