Inverted Totalitarianism

For those of you not familiar with Inverted Totalitarianism, it is a term that was first introduced by Sheldon Wolin (a political philosopher so to speak). It is derived from the power elite theory of C. Wright Mills.

This phrase of "the power elite" was mainly conjured up in an effort to describe the changes that are going on in the United States government. It is a phrase often used by social thinker Chris Hedges to explain the so called corporate state.


This theory is used in comparison to the old United States government and Totalitarian governments such as Nazi Germany, Inverted Totalitarianism is a mixture of more than one form of government. While most people use this term to showcase the differences in the two, there are actually many similarities in the two governments listed above. If you weren’t already aware of the main differences in Inverted Totalitarianism and traditional Totalitarianism, you’ll find that they are outlined and explained in the list of bullet points below.

In Nazi Germany, for example, the state was dominated by its individuals. In the United States, through Inverted Totalitarianism, the country is dominated by its corporations. This is mainly done in the form of lobbying, large contributions, and other (unethical to some) means in what are commonly called iron triangle relationships.

Nazi Germany openly mocked Democracy whereas the United States basically brags that it is the model of Democracy for the entire world. For that reason, the two are the complete opposite.

Nazi Germany strove for mobilization of its political structure (the Hitler Youth is an example). However, the United States focuses on staying persistent and is the opposite of mobilization.

As mentioned above, there are many similarities between Inverted Totalitarianism and traditional Totalitarianism. The main similarity between the two is according to Sheldon Wolin is the fact that both systems rely on propaganda for their success. Some may look at this as brain washing while others may simply see this as an effective strategy that will allow the government to have things always go their way. Regardless of how you look at it, there’s no denying that the similarity is definitely there and is visible by the naked eye. So, with all of this being said, the main differences in the two are their values, their outlook on political mobilization, and who is in control of the country (individuals or corporations). It is a much more meaningful way to understand things than to do just look at "the one percent".

Many will agree that something has to be done about the direction that the United States is going in and this has been especially true ever since the War in Iraq started to take off back in the early to mid 2000s. Whether or not that will happen is another story but most will agree that Sheldon Wolin hit the nail on the head when he coined the term “Inverted Totalitarianism” and also that it needs to be adjusted.