Wether totalitarism has happened before the Totalitarian regimes depend on how weakly it is defined.
In the limit, under a weak -modern- definition, everithing that is not dead is potentially totalitarian. Under a more precise definition, if Modernity is the affirmation of Reason as good and the diminish of Tradition as evil. then totalitarianism is the logical consequence of Modernity. Because only under Modernity the claim of having Reason and good motives gives the iIluminated the right to reshape man and society acconding with its will, even by force without regard for tradition. According with this definition, totalitarianism had never happened until Modernity.
On the contrary, even the power of the absolute monarchies or, if you like, the Egyptian Pharaons were constrained by religion and other traditions, The higuest authority over political authority were God or goods and the sacred books (that acted as true, original constitutions). The traditional institutions acted as limits of power. Every society has had a system of power control, contrary to what modern mentality posits. Except the totalitarian regimes.
I do not say that every society is the same. Some societies work better that others, but even Islam has worked for 1400 years while Comunism and Fascism lasted for less than a century. Tradition is a collection of best practices, "those things that work in a certain society under a certain environment". Ancient rulers had to conform to tradition and traditional institutions. Such tradition include knowledge about what is good government, what is bad and what happens with bad rulers, among others. Traditions and values are the congenital and adquired knowledge incorporated in the societies and in the minds of men in the form of common sense, transported by sacred books, oral traditions and genes produced as results of by the historical processes of social and biological evolution. That knowledge is not only diminished but attacked under totalitarian regimes , but also is diminished and very ofte attacked by Modernity in general.
If the ruling class diminish tradition, the society will fail just because human reason can only cope with very little amount of information and the sciences accumulates very incomplete knowledge specially about what is more important for the life of Man in society. The inexorable failure of Modernity happens specially fast with totalitarianism, that is the radical form of modernity. Under a liberal democracy, the survival of society will depend only on the degree in which people respect tradition and common sense.
Actually, Modernity is about individualism and rights, but also about totalitarianism. and also about scientism, and also is about antihuman ecologism. and so on. You can not isolate your "good Modernity", that you advocate, from the "bad Modernity" that others, for example, the left, advocate, because this time is this time as a whole, and in fact your good modernity has too much in common with the bad modernity. In fact your good modernity is contradictory in its own terms, since a " common civic culture and/or 'political religion'" implies very strong limits to "individual freedom and (legal and moral) equality" . Ihe reconciliation of both in the same phrase demands weak thinking. And weak thinking is, in ithself, a sign of our time. The Greek Philosophers or the medieval Fathers of the Curch would laugh at this definition. To beging with what you consider bad, without some degree of authority, loyality and censorship there is no society possible. Not to mention moral inequality. Do you agree to tolerate the promotion of pedophilia? Poligamy? Terrorism?
The enlightemment gave us all the kinds of modernity, weither you like it or not. Western Liberal Leftism is his most direct political son. If you molest yourself in looking at the sequence of historical facts, the Act II of Enligthenment, the French Revolution, was not exactly a rejection of Enlightenment, but the desire of its triumph by totalitarian means. And this is the true nature of modernity.
The most cogent study of modernity I know is, thanks to Mr Bertonneau, from Voegelin.
Modernity is unsatisfaction with the real state of things and the desire of inmanent (in this life) salvation trough wathever fashionable idea. The modern despise the past and is in search of novelties that could transport oneself or the society to the eden. From new tecnologies, to new politics, new sciences or new anti-age products, diets, cults. After the "revelation" of the new "thing" the modern initiates a "revolution", either a personal revolution or a collective one. A bloody one or a "change" where the nonbelievers are condemned to social death. Enligntenment was the "revelation" for the french revolutionaries. Technophyles live for the next technological revolution. In the middle, eugenesism gave up Nazism etc. As Voegelin says, the suffix "ism" was invented ih the XVIII century.
But humans and the human society can not be reinvented. Humans and human societies, like all natural things, are given. Modernity is a rejection of human nature and human society. Is the desire of reinvent ourselves, and the belief that this is possible, Paradoxically, it implies the rejection of a rational study of man and society "as is" while indulges in its transformation without proper previously adquired knowledge. Thus, modernity is dominated by viscerality and sentimentalism, the only driving force when prudence before the unknown is rejected.