INTERVIEW: Teodoro Petkoff on "Intellectuals and Totalitarianism"


In this excerpt from the question and answer session following his talk, Teodoro Petkoff discusses the disturbing tendency of intellectuals to support totalitarian regimes.

Why is there so much uncritical admiration for Hugo Chávez and his policies in international circles among intellectuals and the left? Many of these people are quick to criticize governments on the right but give Chávez their unconditional support. How do you explain this phenomenon? Teodoro Petkoff: Mark Lilla, an American, wrote an important book called The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics. I recommend it because he examines the fascination of 20th-century intellectuals with strongmen and totalitarianism. Lilla draws on the examples of Heidegger, who was a member of the Nazi party; Carl Schmitt, the theoretician of Nazism; and the politics of the Frenchman Jacques Derrida, to examine the attraction of some intellectuals to totalitarianism.

Teodoro Petkoff
Publication date: 
January 15, 2008
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article