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Facing the Twentieth Century: The Necessity to Deconstruct a Monstrification

by Alfredo Ferrara

pp. 239-254 Issue 19 (10,1) – January-June 2023 ISSN (online): 2539/2239 ISSN (print): 2389-8232 DOI:


In this paper, we will focus on a topic and three books that have strongly contributed to the monstrification of the idea of the Twentieth century. The topic is the new role that masses have gained in politics of the Twentieth century: in fact, it represents an undeniable theoretical and historical precondition to understand the Twentieth century, and its trivialisation or removal is the starting act of any process of monstrification. As we have already pointed out, shared by all Twentieth century monstrifications is the role attributed to totalitarianisms and the comparison between Nazism and communism, which is a highly controversial and debated issue (Kocka, Schiera & Wippermann, 1999). The choice to focus on the masses’ breakthrough in the Twentieth century instead of on totalitarianisms is motivated by the aim of exploring what we consider to be the condition of possibility of Twentieth century politics, in which totalitarianism is certainly a tragic and relevant chapter, but not the only one.
We will examine this topic starting from the interpretation proposed in the books of two historians and a philosopher: The Passing of an Illusion. The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century by the French historian François Furet, published in 1995, Reflections on a Ravaged Century by the English historian Robert Conquest, published in 2000, and finally Hope And Memory. Reflections on the Twentieth Century published in 2000 by the Franco-Bulgarian philosopher Tzevetan Todorov. After tracing the perspectives of these three scholars, we will trace some alternative hermeneutic possibilities that are considered necessary for an interpretation of the Twentieth century free from any form of indulgence towards the evils that have permeated it, but also from any kind of monstrification.

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