We are used to distinguishing the despotic regimes of the 20th century - communism, fascism, National Socialism, Maoism - very precisely according to place and time, origins and influences. But what should we call that which they have in common? On this question, there has been and is still a passionate debate. This book documents the first international conference on this theme, a conference that took place in September of 1994 at the University of Munich. The book shows how new models for understanding political history arose from the experience of modern despotic regimes. Here, the most important concepts - totalitarianism and political religions - are discussed and tested in terms of their usefulness.