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total +‎ -ism

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totalism (countable and uncountable, plural totalisms)

  1. (rare, usually uncountable) A social, economic and/or political system in which some authority (e.g. the state or "the market") wields absolute power; totalitarianism.
    • 2010, Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld: Terrorism's Challenge to Democracy, →ISBN:
      If the political totalism of the fascist and communist world once tried, at horrendous human costs, to subordinate all economic, social, and cultural activity to the demands of an overarching state, the economic totalism of unleashed market economics seems now to be trying (at costs yet to be fully reckoned) to subordinate politics, society, and culture to the demands of an overarching market.
    • 2011, Janis Mimura, Planning for Empire, →ISBN:
      They contrasted the “organic” “leadership” organizations of German and Italian totalism with the “mechanical,” “dictatorship” organization of communist (Soviet) totalism.
    • 2013, Walter Brueggemann, Truth Speaks to Power: The Countercultural Nature of Scripture →ISBN, pages 162 and 164:
      Whenever it can, social power will tend as soon as possible toward totalism. Such social totalism is always a breath away from totalitarianism []
      The apostles find a way to testify, in talk and in walk, about a truth that is vigorously and resolutely outside the totalism of Rome.
    • For more examples of usage of this term, see Citations:totalism.
  2. (rare, countable) A philosophy, ideology or belief system that is total in its scope, one that covers everything.
    • 2004, Personal Epistemology: The Psychology of Beliefs →ISBN, page 220:
      To postmodernists, modernism gave the world science, reason, western civilization, Marxism, Freudianism, and other totalisms. Each of these totalisms tells a grand story that relates everything to everything else by using the system's universal principle as a theme.
    • 2011, Lewis S. Feuer, Ideology and the Ideologists, →ISBN, page 130:
      And ideologists pride themselves above all on what we might call their ‘totalism’. Georg Lukacs, for instance, regarded such totalism as the outstanding characteristic of Marxism: 'It is not the primacy of economic motives in historical explanation that constitutes the decisive difference between Marxism and bourgeois science, but the point of view of totality', writes Lukacs.
  3. (rare, uncountable) Totality; (the) entirety (of something).
    • 1900, Robert Eno, The Confucian Creation of Heaven, →ISBN, page 69:
      Once the totalism of Sagehood is grasped, the disciple can throw away his li-books; he will be a perfect ritual actor naturally.
  4. (rare, uncountable) Totalness, absoluteness; the characteristic of being absolute in nature or scope.
    • 1981, The Psychohistory Review, volume 10, parts 2-4, page 173:
      The ideological fervor, the abhorrence of compromise, the attraction to conflict, and the totalism of his family's rejection of white culture were the biographical themes that served him best as he tried to reach the hearts of his followers.
    • 1993, Richard L. Gawthrop, Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth-Century Prussia, →ISBN, page 211:
      The totalism of his commitment led, in turn, to his practice of taking charge of even the smallest matters and of ruling autocratically, since he believed God was holding him completely accountable for every act of his government.


  • (Can we date this quote?), Gödel, Putnam, and Functionalism →ISBN, page 246:
    If this argument were a statistical generalization, it would be open to the charge that environment totalism is secured at the expense of assuming that any rational-interpretation algorithm must be prepared to encounter alien cultures []
  • 1981, The Philosophy of Buddhism: A "Totalistic" Synthesis →ISBN, page 59:
    According to totalism, subjects and objects are real events of correlative nature posited by the self-determinative function of the ultimate mind as true Thusness.
  • 1989, Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, page 435:
    The more clearly an environment expresses these eight psychological themes, the greater its resemblance to ideological totalism; and the more it utilizes such totalist devices to change people, the greater its resemblance to thought reform (or "brainwashing".)
  • 1994, G. David Schwartz, A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue: Between Talk and Theology →ISBN, page 101:
    Each of these "evils" is a hierarchy: totalism is a hierarchy. To deny the hierarchy of totalism and defend the pluralism of oneness is the goal. Achieving the goal requires diverse means. The one is expressed in a variety of ways.
  • 2001, Walter Brueggemann, Hope for the World: Mission in a Global Context →ISBN, page 155:
    It is clear that the totalism of "economic freedom" is not characteristically democratic, for the "foreign policy" of the "global economy," rooted in the United States, is readily and easily allied with nondemocratic forces, []
  • 2008, Benjamin R. Barber, Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children →ISBN, page 222:
    And resisting consumer totalism is possible and possible at far less cost than resisting totalitarianism, although doing so, it turns out (see chapter 8), is difficult all the same. Why? Because consumerism's totalizing tendencies unfold out of sight, []

Related terms[edit]


  • totalism” in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online.