Totalitarian democracy is a term made famous by Israeli historian J. L. Talmon to refer to a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government. The phrase had previously been used by Bertrand de Jouvenel and E.H. Carr, and subsequently by F. William Engdahl and Sheldon S. Wolin.
Talmon's 1952 book The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy discusses the transformation of a state in which traditional values and articles of faith shape the role of government into one in which social utility takes absolute precedence. His work is a criticism of the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher whose ideas influenced the French Revolution. In The Social Contract, Rousseau contends that the interests of the individual and the state are one and the same, and it is the state's responsibility to implement the "general will".
The political neologism "messianic democracy" also derives from Talmon's introduction to this work:
- Indeed, from the vantage point of the mid twentieth century the history of the last hundred and fifty years looks like a systematic preparation for the headlong collision between empirical and liberal democracy on the one hand, and totalitarian Messianic democracy on the other, in which the world crisis of to-day consists .[dead link]