Justin DesRochers

The Physiology of Despotism
Spring 2019

This original project proposes to place Hannah Arendt’s seminal work on totalitarianism, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), in dialogue with the Kim dynasty of North Korea. A key work in the historiography of totalitarianism, Arendt’s work witnessed a resurgence of interest following the election of President Trump. Interestingly, despite a renewed interest in the work, there is a significant deficit of scholarship drawing comparisons between The Origins of Totalitarianism to a truly totalitarian state in our own time – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Especially relevant today because of North Korea’s “détente” with the international community beginning this year, this project seeks to shine light on a contemporary regime that remains a chronic abuser of human rights and incredibly despotic in its treatment of people. The proposed investigation seeks to see if the trends identified by Arendt can can draw adequate comparisons with North Korea, centering itself in the debate if totalitarianism is in-of-itself a legitimate category of a certain method of governance, or if those projects typically associated with totalitarianism (i.e. Nazism, Stalinism, and Juche) are in actuality separate phenomenons.