Nietzsche's Great Politics shows how Nietzsche made Bismarck's notion his own, enabling him to offer a vision of a unified European political order that was to serve as a counterbalance to both Britain and Russia. This order was to be led by a "good European" cultural elite whose goal would be to encourage the rebirth of Greek high culture. In relocating Nietzsche's politics to their own time, the book offers not only a novel reading of the philosopher but also a more accurate picture of why his political thought remains so relevant today.
Shaw argues that the modern political predicament, for Nietzsche, is shaped by two important historical phenomena. The first is secularization, or the erosion of religious belief, and the fragmentation of moral life that it entails. The second is the unparalleled ideological power of the modern state. The promotion of Nietzsche's own values, Shaw insists, requires resistance to state ideology. But Nietzsche cannot envisage how these values might themselves provide a stable basis for political authority; this is because secular societies, lacking recognized normative expertise, also lack a reliable mechanism for making moral insight politically effective.
In grappling with this predicament, Shaw claims, Nietzsche raises profound questions about political legitimacy and political authority in the modern world.
The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.