Hot Best Seller

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

Availability: Ready to download

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, professor, and historian offers an expert guide to understanding the appeal of the strongman as a leader and an explanation for why authoritarianism is back with a menacing twenty-first century twist. Across the world today, from the Americas to Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege while populism and nationalism are on the r The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, professor, and historian offers an expert guide to understanding the appeal of the strongman as a leader and an explanation for why authoritarianism is back with a menacing twenty-first century twist. Across the world today, from the Americas to Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege while populism and nationalism are on the rise. In Twilight of Democracy, prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum offers an unexpected explanation: that there is a deep and inherent appeal to authoritarianism, to strongmen, and, especially, to one-party rule--that is, to political systems that benefit true believers, or loyal soldiers, or simply the friends and distant cousins of the Leader, to the exclusion of everyone else. People, she argues, are not just ideological; they are also practical, pragmatic, opportunistic. They worry about their families, their houses, their careers. Some political systems offer them possibilities, and others don't. In particular, the modern authoritarian parties that have arisen within democracies today offer the possibility of success to people who do not thrive in the meritocratic, democratic, or free-market competition that determines access to wealth and power. Drawing on reporting in Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, and Brazil; using historical examples including Stalinist central Europe and Nazi Germany; and investigating related phenomena: the modern conspiracy theory, nostalgia for a golden past, political polarization, and meritocracy and its discontents, Anne Applebaum brilliantly illuminates the seduction of totalitarian thinking and the eternal appeal of the one-party state.


Compare

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, professor, and historian offers an expert guide to understanding the appeal of the strongman as a leader and an explanation for why authoritarianism is back with a menacing twenty-first century twist. Across the world today, from the Americas to Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege while populism and nationalism are on the r The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, professor, and historian offers an expert guide to understanding the appeal of the strongman as a leader and an explanation for why authoritarianism is back with a menacing twenty-first century twist. Across the world today, from the Americas to Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege while populism and nationalism are on the rise. In Twilight of Democracy, prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum offers an unexpected explanation: that there is a deep and inherent appeal to authoritarianism, to strongmen, and, especially, to one-party rule--that is, to political systems that benefit true believers, or loyal soldiers, or simply the friends and distant cousins of the Leader, to the exclusion of everyone else. People, she argues, are not just ideological; they are also practical, pragmatic, opportunistic. They worry about their families, their houses, their careers. Some political systems offer them possibilities, and others don't. In particular, the modern authoritarian parties that have arisen within democracies today offer the possibility of success to people who do not thrive in the meritocratic, democratic, or free-market competition that determines access to wealth and power. Drawing on reporting in Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, and Brazil; using historical examples including Stalinist central Europe and Nazi Germany; and investigating related phenomena: the modern conspiracy theory, nostalgia for a golden past, political polarization, and meritocracy and its discontents, Anne Applebaum brilliantly illuminates the seduction of totalitarian thinking and the eternal appeal of the one-party state.

30 review for Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    Journalist and sometime historian, Ann Applebaum offers in this monograph her assessment of contemporary polarized politics in Europe and the United States. Like many from both sides of the political spectrum, she sees in the current state of affairs a dangerous drift towards authoritarianism. What makes this narrative different from many out there is that the author was once friends with many of those in Europe and the United States that now espouse an anti-democratic, stringently nationalist, Journalist and sometime historian, Ann Applebaum offers in this monograph her assessment of contemporary polarized politics in Europe and the United States. Like many from both sides of the political spectrum, she sees in the current state of affairs a dangerous drift towards authoritarianism. What makes this narrative different from many out there is that the author was once friends with many of those in Europe and the United States that now espouse an anti-democratic, stringently nationalist, and xenophobic politics. In this sense, one could describe this as an insider’s account, and certainly the author’s orientation and approach to the issue is markedly conservative, even as she disavows the hate mongering, nihilistic positions of the so-called alt right. Rightly, the author notes that history has shown that authoritarianism is neither “intrinsically ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing.’” It attracts people from both sides of the political spectrum “who cannot tolerate complexity…It is anti-pluralist. It is suspicious of people with different ideas. It is allergic to fierce debates.” The author also associates the current right-wing drift toward authoritarianism with a restorative nostalgia, that is, a desire to recreate a caricature of the past, one that has only a minimal relationship to the real past with all its nuances and contradictions. Consequently, the proponents of this mythical past often advance conspiracy theories to explain its demise and what she terms “medium-sized lies” to advocate its return. They take advantage of new technologies and social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to target their message for a specific demographic. For example, to garner support for Brexit from British animal lovers, Brexit enthusiasts used Facebook’s targeted advertising opportunities to show them photographs of Spanish bullfighters. The above insights are hardly new, but as noted earlier there is an intimate quality to her revelations that is absent in most monographs. Her discussions of the shifting views of Boris Johnson, Laura Ingraham, Mária Schmidt, and others includes accounts of former hobnobbing at parties with these individuals and painful personal breaks as former friends adopted extreme right views that brooked no disagreement. Readers may find such intimacy alluring, but they should be wary as it comes with its own cartoon-like nostalgia and ideological baggage. Repeatedly the author waxes on about the Reagan/Thatcher era as emblematic of democratic government and fails to acknowledge the serious errors of these administrations. For example, one hears no mention of the Iran-Contra Scandal that took place during Reagan’s second term, not does the author mention the deleterious effects that his policy of deinstitutionalization had on mentally ill patients, their families, and communities. As for Thatcher, there is no mention of her endorsement of the violent suppression of striking miners. In short, the author seemingly commits the same sin of which she accuses authoritarian supporters: failing to acknowledge the nuances and complexities of all governments, including those she supported. Perhaps these oversights could be overlooked if not for the ideological baggage with which they are accompanied. For example, the author claims when we speak of the “poor” or the “deprived” in the West, “it is sometimes because they lack things human beings couldn’t dream of a century ago, like air conditioning or wifi.” Apparently the author is unaware that 21 percent of children in the United States live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level or that 16 million children in this country struggle at some time during any given year with hunger. As for lack of access to the wi-fi/internet, although this may sound insignificant, in an increasingly connected world, lack of access places one at a distinct disadvantage economically, limiting the jobs one is qualified to fill. Sadly, the ideological baggage that underpins this study does not end here. For example, the author writes: “In the past century and a half, the most despairing, the most apocalyptic visions of American civilization usually came from the left.” As proof, she discusses at length the nineteenth-century anarchist Emma Goldman who advocated violent resistance to capitalism and the 1970s Weather Underground. Undeniably both of these groups believed in using violence as a means to an end. Still, neither of these groups as had the long-term, nefarious impact that the racist, right-wing Ku Klux Klan (in its multiple incarnations) has had on American society. Yet, she provides no detailed discussion of the lynching campaigns or terror that members of this group perpetrated against African Americans. Instead, she claims, “There is no need to rehearse here the history of the Ku Klux Klan…or to describe the myriad of individuals and militia movements who have plotted mass murder and continue to plot mass murder, in the name of rescuing the fallen nation.” The result is a lopsided history of extremism in this country that leaves the reader wondering: What does democracy mean to the author, if she considers attacks on businesses and business leaders more “apocalyptic” than attacks on minorities, the marginalized, and the underrepresented? At best, it suggests that she is out of touch with the experiences of most Americans, who have neither direct access to leaders of the left or right, and who increasingly live in despair, worried that their children will not even have the few opportunities that they had. For this reason, despite some thought-provoking discussions, I cannot recommend this book. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Big on names, short on analysis, and written by someone with an immense ego who uses the book as a platform to brag about who she knows. However, knowing famous people doesn't necessarily mean you have any real insight. I read Twilight of Democracy thinking it would give me more understanding about what is happening in the world, why people are turning more and more towards authoritarianism. My knowledge of international politics is woefully lacking so I did learn a little about the current polit Big on names, short on analysis, and written by someone with an immense ego who uses the book as a platform to brag about who she knows. However, knowing famous people doesn't necessarily mean you have any real insight. I read Twilight of Democracy thinking it would give me more understanding about what is happening in the world, why people are turning more and more towards authoritarianism. My knowledge of international politics is woefully lacking so I did learn a little about the current political situation in Poland, but little else. The author uses the book to drop names and make herself seem important by pointing out all the people she either used to be friends with or who have been at the same parties and maybe she bumped elbows with. I don't care who you know. It doesn't make you a better or more interesting person to have had drinks with Boris Johnson. And it doesn't automatically qualify you to provide insight into the political climate of the UK. Unfortunately, the book is more 'he-said-and-she-said to me!!' and 'I-know-all-these-people!' than anything else. I was especially put off when she offered her non-expert opinion on the United States, a country she hasn't lived in for 30 years. You know she doesn't have a clue about what's going on here when she avers that due to the pandemic, in "the United States, and many other places, there was a consensus that people needed to stay home, that quarantines needed to be enforced, that police needed to play an exceptional role." Um... no, there's no such thing as a consensus that people need to stay home, quarantines need to be enforced, or police should play an exceptional role in protecting people. Maybe in European countries, but not in the US. There's no consensus in our government and there's no consensus amongst our citizens. Yet because she was born in America, Ms. Applebaum seems to think she automatically has insight into what's going on in the country, a country she hasn't lived in since the early '90s.  She derides people like author Howard Zinn who focus on oppression, racism, and sexism and come to "radical conclusions" about the myth of American exceptionalism.  This from a privileged rich white woman who doesn't live in the US and has probably never sat down and had a drink with poor people, let alone poor Black people. But she knows it all about racism and states that pointing out its evils is "radical". She then says derisively, "the exaggerated claims of those who practice identity politics are a political and cultural problem that will require real bravery to fight.".  People voting for politicians who at least pay lip service to the needs of people of color, those in the LGBQTIA community, and other minorities are "a political and cultural problem"? Not the people and system oppressing them, according to the author, but they themselves are the problem if they speak up for their own rights. As Stacey Abrams says in her book Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, identity is politics and "identity is the strongest defense against invisibility". Ms. Abrams rightfully claims that "Identity politics pushes leaders to understand that because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity, and national origin, people confront obstacles that stem from these identities." But according to Ms. Applebaum, this is radical. The shred of respect I'd had for her up to this point disintegrated. She needs to find herself a corner in her big ol' mansion and go sit in it. I'm rating this 2 stars instead of 1 only because I did learn a couple of things.  However, they were things I could have learned in a newspaper article and I wish I hadn't wasted time on this book. I recommend it only if you want to hear some rich egotistical person bragging about everyone she knows. 

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    4.5 This is a disturbing book. It's meant to be disturbing. Many books have been written over the past few years (let's pick 2016 as a randomly chosen starting point) examining the dark shifts taking place in the world's democratic countries."How Democracies Die," for one, and "The Retreat of Western Liberalism," for another. Applebaum's book covers similar ground but she brings something new and important to the subject. Applebaum is a highly regarded author and reporter. I'm most familiar with 4.5 This is a disturbing book. It's meant to be disturbing. Many books have been written over the past few years (let's pick 2016 as a randomly chosen starting point) examining the dark shifts taking place in the world's democratic countries."How Democracies Die," for one, and "The Retreat of Western Liberalism," for another. Applebaum's book covers similar ground but she brings something new and important to the subject. Applebaum is a highly regarded author and reporter. I'm most familiar with her from her writings for The Washington Post and The Atlantic. She is serious, smart, and perceptive. She is also, unlike the authors of so many other previous books on the topic, a conservative: a "McCain Republican," as she puts it, and she is profoundly dismayed by what that party, and others like it around the world, has become. The book opens with a New Year's Eve gathering at her house in 1999 in Poland, where she and her husband live. The party is attended by numerous thinkers, writers, educators, diplomats, journalists, and such. Mostly conservative in their thinking and deeply committed to (and optimistic about) democracy, they entered the new millennium with shared confidence and hope. Within the span of a few years, however, things change. Applebaum finds she does not -- cannot -- talk to many of these same people who were her friends. She will even cross the street to avoid encounters, as they will to avoid her. Individuals who considered themselves as center-left or center-right were now spokesmen for or participants in authoritarian governments. In trying to discern what factors led to this, the book covers a lot of ground, drawing examples from countries Applebaum has lived in and people she's known. She talks about toxic forms of nostalgia, and the urge to power, of cynical actors and manufactured apocalyptic visions, of bots and social media, corrupted courts and compliant political institutions, of "soft" dictatorship and "Medium-Size Lies," of fictitious conspiracies and the undermining of faith in institutions, of aggrieved senses of entitlement and arguments about how nations define themselves and who gets to contribute to the process of definition. And most importantly, perhaps, the psychological processes that lead people to buy into systems they would never seen themselves as being able to support. In short, all the tools that can be brought to bear to crack open the fissures inherent in and necessary to democracy. At the heart of "Twilight" are three key points: that democracies are neither guaranteed to survive nor self-sustaining; that democracies are by their nature messy, stress-filled cacophonies of competing voices, viewpoints, and needs; and -- perhaps most critically in today's world -- that there are large numbers of people for whom "the appeal of authoritarianism is eternal" because "they are bothered by complexity. They dislike divisiveness. They prefer unity. A sudden onslaught of diversity -- diversity of opinions, diversity of experiences -- makes them angry." Authoritarian impulses always find fertile ground in times of uncertainty. That said, societies that do slide from democracy into authoritarianism do not devolve on their own but are consciously shaped and molded. Authoritarians... need the people who can use sophisticated legal language, people who can argue that breaking the constitution or twisting the law is the right thing to do. They need people who will give voice to grievances, manipulate discontent, channel anger and fear, and imagine a different future. They need members of the intellectual and educated elite, in other words, who will help them launch a war on the rest of the educated elite, even if that includes their university classmates, their colleagues, and their friends. It had been an article of faith after the end of the Cold War, she observes, that democracy would spread, and along with it, economic prosperity -- that democratic societies would never collapse. But those beliefs have been challenged by facts on the ground. It is a grim and, in our time, all too familiar picture. What seemed a shining future might become a dark avenue we fear to walk. What, then, has caused this transformation? Were some of our friends always closet authoritarians? Or have people with whom we clinked glasses in the first minutes of the new millennium somehow changed over the subsequent two decades? There is no single explanation, and I will not offer either a grand theory or a universal solution. But there is a theme: Given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy. Indeed, if history is anything to go by, all of our societies eventually will. A frightening prospect, this. The book has so much power because Applebaum speaks as much from her heart as she does her head. The writing throughout is clear and engaging, as one would expect from a gifted journalist. It is filled with names that are familiar (who knew that Laura Ingraham once dated Donald Trump?) and unfamiliar. But mostly it is grounded in a warning that democracy is not guaranteed to last, that it must be protected. I can't recommend this important book enough. One quibble, offered here in the hope that someone at the publisher stumbles across this review: The digital ARC I read (thank you Netgalley!) has a LOT of typos. Really, a lot! I hope they're caught before the book goes to press.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process. This is Book #17 in my 2020 US Election Preparation I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process. This is Book #17 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge. As a student of politics, I often look back on the 2016 US Presidential Election and wonder what happened. While I could (and should) inject discussion about Russian bots or outsider influence, there had to be a base of people who chose Trump, allowing outsiders to build on an already present momentum. While thinking about how America got to the point of even considering Trump (and, taking a step back, the Republican base to choose him as their candidate), there must have been a spark that ignited the desire to look outside the norms of the democratic ideals on which America has held firm for centuries. Enter Anne Applebaum and this brief book that explores that desire and push towards a more authoritarian state. While not an examination of America on its own, Applebaum looks at the shift towards a more controlling state in America and some parts of Europe, drawing on her experience as a journalist in these regions. Applebaum does not offer airtight answers, but has great commentary based on her career. She explores the move away from methodical democracy and towards something that is more state-centric and easily digested by the general population seeking a resurgence of ‘the way it was’. While I cannot say that I liked all I heard, it does make a degree of sense. If not something I would recommended wholeheartedly, this book certainly provides me with an academic analysis of how and why Trump seemed to appeal to so many in 2016 and still holds sway today. The spark of conspiracy can ignite a population like no other. Being able to fabricate a story and have it take on a life of its own is a fabulous way to get a message across while injecting fear in the possibilities. Applebaum explores how this has worked, without concrete substantiation, across the various states explored in this tome. There appears to be a strong push to use immigration as that topic that could tear the state apart, should it be allowed to continue. While European fears lay with the Syrian refugees fleeing a civil war, it has also been used with the constructed ‘caravan’ from Central America worked its way through American conspiracy channels. There is no proof of the bold statements and yet people lap it up, sure that the country they have come to know will disappear with the dilution of national values, while jobs will be handed over to others. There is little attempt to think logically and so the governing party uses this to tighten rules and keep ‘others’ out, thereby strengthening the core and keeping change from making its way onto the agenda. A sense of nostalgia is also a driving force to push towards authoritarian rule, looking back to a time when things were better and life was more in tune with how things ought to be. Many will know the rhetoric about creating a great America once again, which looks to regain what was one formidable but has gone to the wayside. Looking to days of old that are lost can only be brought back by toughening stances and limiting some of the looseness that democracy permits. Interestingly enough, I have never heard when America was ‘great’ in the eyes of the current president and what era he wishes be replicated, though one can imagine slavery and white supremacy would be a sure Utopia. I also remain baffled when there was a previous Polish or Hungarian greatness that has since been drowned. Even a UK of the past that soared above it all remains confusing to me, for the push towards the authoritarian state was to commence BREXIT, something that buoyed the country up, while forcing it to share itself among its continental cousins. Then again, here I am in Canada, trying to comprehend something outside my area of interest. The move towards authoritarian rule must include the erosion of democratic foundations, as Applebaum explores throughout the piece. While this appears to be somewhat contradictory, for it is these same democratic institutions and beliefs that brought those leading the state to power. Yet, there seems almost to be a rage against the system that is needed, one that pokes holes in all that the state has been following that slowly morphs things into an authoritarian regime and forges a leader in place who cannot be removed with ease. Discounting the importance of legislatures as being too focused on their own interests, dismissing rules as being outdated and attempting to stifle growth, as well as erasing checks on power through elections as being fraudulent if the results sought do not come to pass. Applebaum cites speeches made by many leaders who have taken bits from far right and left thinkers, glueing them together, and leaving the general public to feel as though this is the new normal. The move to deconstruct seems to be the only way the state can run effectively, forcing a suspension of the rules, many of which are mocked along the way. How leaders get away with this defies the imagination, but there are tools mentioned above that help bring about this blind trust. Once gone, it is close to impossible to get it back without turning the state on its head and appearing just as dictatorial to the general public. While I knowingly came into this read with a preconceived notion about authoritarianism, I did want to see if I could be enlightened about what could have led the world to search out something that was so vile during the 1930s-70s. Anne Applebaum does well to analyse and provide her own ideas, all of which are rooted in what she’s seen and reported. Her experience and analytical nature helps push the book forward, where she seeks to better understand how the conservatism she espouses has become less than what is needed, turning her views almost centre or centre-left. The use of multiple states helps to show that this is not an ideological Petri dish when it comes to exploring the shift, though it is hard to get to the root of the issue in a shorter book. Applebaum is keen to provide concrete examples and show how they fit into the larger narrative to offer the reader something on which to grasp while trying to decipher the truth. The chapters are laid out in a clear and concise manner, permitting the reader to see how things moved from A to B, without inundating them with information or leave them to feel lost in a sea of statistics. There is no doubt that this is an academic discussion, told through the eyes of a well-versed political reporter. That said, the discussion is quite intriguing for those who have a mind for the subject matter and can sift through some of the high-brow analysis of European politics. It may not offer hope of a quick fix, but it does show that this is not only an American phenomena, meaning that others can understand the craziness that appears to occur on a daily basis in the United States. Let’s hope that something can be done to take a little air out of the tires of the authoritarian movement. I’ve tired of it already and am prepared for some return to greater days! Kudos, Madam Applebaum, for opening my eyes to better understand some of the issues that have made democracy less desirable to many, while filling the power vacuum with something more daunting. I will have to look into more of your work, allowing me to become better educated on a number of subjects. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tauno

    Anne Applebaum History Will Judge the Complicit For tormented intellectuals, collaboration also offered a kind of relief, almost a sense of peace: It meant that they were no longer constantly at war with the state, no longer in turmoil. Once the intellectual has accepted that there is no other way, Miłosz wrote, “he eats with relish, his movements take on vigor, his color returns. He sits down and writes a ‘positive’ article, marveling at the ease with which he writes it.” Miłosz is one of the few Anne Applebaum History Will Judge the Complicit For tormented intellectuals, collaboration also offered a kind of relief, almost a sense of peace: It meant that they were no longer constantly at war with the state, no longer in turmoil. Once the intellectual has accepted that there is no other way, Miłosz wrote, “he eats with relish, his movements take on vigor, his color returns. He sits down and writes a ‘positive’ article, marveling at the ease with which he writes it.” Miłosz is one of the few writers to acknowledge the pleasure of conformity, the lightness of heart that it grants, the way that it solves so many personal and professional dilemmas. Collaboration wasn’t interesting, Birthler told me. Almost everyone was a collaborator; 99 percent of East Germans collaborated. If they weren’t working with the Stasi, then they were working with the party, or with the system more generally. The point is not to compare Trump to Hitler or Stalin; the point is to compare the experiences of high-ranking members of the American Republican Party, especially those who work most closely with the White House, to the experiences of Frenchmen in 1940, or of East Germans in 1945, or of Czesław Miłosz in 1947. These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own. These kinds of lies also have a way of building on one another. It takes time to persuade people to abandon their existing value systems. The process usually begins slowly, with small changes. Social scientists who have studied the erosion of values and the growth of corruption inside companies have found, for example, that “people are more likely to accept the unethical behavior of others if the behavior develops gradually (along a slippery slope) rather than occurring abruptly,” according to a 2009 article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. This happens, in part, because most people have a built-in vision of themselves as moral and honest, and that self-image is resistant to change. Once certain behaviors become “normal,” then people stop seeing them as wrong. But all of them are familiar justifications of collaboration, recognizable from the past. Here are the most popular. We can use this moment to achieve great things. We can protect the country from the president. I, personally, will benefit. I must remain close to power. LOL nothing matters. Cynicism, nihilism, relativism, amorality, irony, sarcasm, boredom, amusement—these are all reasons to collaborate, and always have been. Marko Martin, a novelist and travel writer who grew up in East Germany, told me that in the 1980s some of the East German bohemia, influenced by then-fashionable French intellectuals, argued that there was no such thing as morality or immorality, no such thing as good or evil, no such thing as right or wrong—“so you might as well collaborate.” If there is no such thing as moral and immoral, then everyone is implicitly released from the need to obey any rules. If the president doesn’t respect the Constitution, then why should I? If the president can cheat in elections, then why can’t I? Mikhail Bakhtin, the Russian philosopher and literary critic, recognized the lure of the forbidden a century ago, writing about the deep appeal of the carnival, a space where everything banned is suddenly allowed, where eccentricity is permitted, where profanity defeats piety. My side might be flawed, but the political opposition is much worse. I am afraid to speak out. Fear, of course, is the most important reason any inhabitant of an authoritarian or totalitarian society does not protest or resign, even when the leader commits crimes, violates his official ideology, or forces people to do things that they know to be wrong. In extreme dictatorships like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia, people fear for their lives. In softer dictatorships, like East Germany after 1950 and Putin’s Russia today, people fear losing their jobs or their apartments. The choice to become a dissident can easily be the result of “a number of small decisions that you take”—to absent yourself from the May Day parade, for example, or not to sing the words of the party hymn. And then, one day, you find yourself irrevocably on the other side. Often, this process involves role models. You see people whom you admire, and you want to be like them. It can even be “selfish.” “You want to do something for yourself,” Birthler said, “to respect yourself.” In the meantime, I leave anyone who has the bad luck to be in public life at this moment with a final thought from Władysław Bartoszewski, who was a member of the wartime Polish underground, a prisoner of both the Nazis and the Stalinists, and then, finally, the foreign minister in two Polish democratic governments. Late in his life—he lived to be 93—he summed up the philosophy that had guided him through all of these tumultuous political changes. It was not idealism that drove him, or big ideas, he said. It was this: Warto być przyzwoitym—“Just try to be decent.” Whether you were decent—that’s what will be remembered. The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

    This was ridiculous. After spending exhaustive detail on name dropping and burnishing her conservative bona fides, the author can't, for the life of her, figure out why folks blame right wing folks for being fascists. She blames the Weather Underground (whose agenda did NOT become the DNC platform), Emma Goldman, college kids who don't want their parents paying for bigoted and sexist professors as the exact equals of conservatives who have taken over Hungary, Poland, the UK, and the US. Five pages This was ridiculous. After spending exhaustive detail on name dropping and burnishing her conservative bona fides, the author can't, for the life of her, figure out why folks blame right wing folks for being fascists. She blames the Weather Underground (whose agenda did NOT become the DNC platform), Emma Goldman, college kids who don't want their parents paying for bigoted and sexist professors as the exact equals of conservatives who have taken over Hungary, Poland, the UK, and the US. Five pages or so were spent on lamenting losing the friendship of Laura Ingraham. Keenly, she gets the details right. So correctly that it is a damn shame she misses that this move to authoritarism is not an outlier of conservative thought, it is baked into the system and should probably be addressed in some way. You would expect better from someone who spent years cataloging the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union to know that extremes lead to brutalism, no matter that you went to cocktail parties with some of them.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karyn

    Democracies are complex and citizens are loud and often chaotic. Independent thinking and the optimism of working towards the ideals of a complex and rich culture are not for everyone, obviously. “Unity is an anomaly. Polarization is normal. The lure of authoritarianism is eternal” a Greek friend told the author. Anne Appelbaum explores, through her own experiences and that of her many friends, how this lure to authoritarianism has brought us here at this point in time, but where to next? Only ti Democracies are complex and citizens are loud and often chaotic. Independent thinking and the optimism of working towards the ideals of a complex and rich culture are not for everyone, obviously. “Unity is an anomaly. Polarization is normal. The lure of authoritarianism is eternal” a Greek friend told the author. Anne Appelbaum explores, through her own experiences and that of her many friends, how this lure to authoritarianism has brought us here at this point in time, but where to next? Only time will tell. Don’t pack in your optimism for better times, however. The wheel of history turns in a circle, after all.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    The interesting thing to me in reading this book was the fact that the author has traveled in well-connected circles and knows intimately the political characters of whom she speaks. She bookends her account with two parties at her home in Poland, one at the New Year's Eve celebration in 1999, the second in the summer of 2019. Half of the people who attended the first party are no longer speaking to those who attended the second. Thus are the divisions of our times, not only in the USA. There ar The interesting thing to me in reading this book was the fact that the author has traveled in well-connected circles and knows intimately the political characters of whom she speaks. She bookends her account with two parties at her home in Poland, one at the New Year's Eve celebration in 1999, the second in the summer of 2019. Half of the people who attended the first party are no longer speaking to those who attended the second. Thus are the divisions of our times, not only in the USA. There are many revealing bits of late 20th-century/early 21st-century European history told as only an insider could divulge. The book gave me new ways to think about the slide toward authoritarianism and examples of how it has occurred fairly recently in , for example, Hungary and Poland. (The author is American but is married to a Polish government official and lives in Poland.) She clearly connects her examples to aspects of the current administration in the USA. Her political background is as a conservative Republican, which makes her dismay the more telling. The book was wonderfully well-written, which is what you'd expect from a Pulitzer-prize-winning author. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brad Lyerla

    Applebaum's thesis in TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY is that authoritarianism is on the rise across the globe. Authoritarian tyrants in the 21st century have all followed the same pattern. Most of her monograph is a description of the authoritarian playbook as it has played out in Europe and the UK in recent decades. Applebaum demonstrates that, in the U.S., Trump has moved well down that same path following the same playbook. She wonders if liberal democracies have the means and will power to oppose and Applebaum's thesis in TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY is that authoritarianism is on the rise across the globe. Authoritarian tyrants in the 21st century have all followed the same pattern. Most of her monograph is a description of the authoritarian playbook as it has played out in Europe and the UK in recent decades. Applebaum demonstrates that, in the U.S., Trump has moved well down that same path following the same playbook. She wonders if liberal democracies have the means and will power to oppose and defeat this trend. Defeating Trump in November would strike an important blow toward saving liberalism. Here is a nice quote that sums up much of Applebaum's argument: ". . . this is what Trump has proven: beneath the surface of the American consensus, the belief in our founding fathers and the faith in our ideals, there lies another America -- [Pat] Buchanan's America, Trump's America -- one that sees no important distinction between democracy and dictatorship. This America feels no attachments to other democracies; this America is not "exceptional." This America has no special democratic spirit of the kind Jefferson described. The unity of this America is created by white skin, a certain idea of Christianity, and an attachment to land that will be surrounded and defended by a wall. This America's ethnic nationalism resembles the old-fashioned ethnic nationalism of older European nations. This America's cultural despair resembles their cultural despair." p. 157-58. I am convinced that Applebaum has this right. I have been trying to convince friends not to vote for Trump in November. Here is what I wrote recently to a few of them: Trump is different. The philosophy that underlies the way that the United States of America does government is called ‘liberal democracy’. In the 20th century, liberal democracy opposed fascism on the right and Bolshevism on the left. In the 21st century, liberal democracy opposes authoritarianism like Putin’s Russia, Kim Joung-un’s North Korea or Duterte’s Philippines. Don’t be confused by the label. Liberal democracy, sometimes called simply ‘liberalism' (with a small l) does not refer to the Democrats. Rather, liberalism is the political philosophy that both Republicans and Democrats have always agreed upon. At any given time in the past, more than 90% of all Republicans and 90% of all Democrats have agreed upon liberal democracy. (Maybe even a higher percentage than 90%, but let’s use 90% for present purposes.) From the founding of our country, liberal democracy has been the undisputed American ideology, though forms of liberalism are alive and well in other parts of the world as well. The American version of liberalism emphasizes two competing virtues. One is the virtue of liberty and the other is the virtue of justice. Let’s take liberty first. The notion underlying America’s idea of liberty is that individuals are born with sovereignty and God-given rights. The Declaration of Independence is the best statement of our understanding of liberty. Individuals are blessed with the right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, individuals are thought to concede their sovereignty to the government for the greater good from which the individuals will enjoy benefits that they could not obtain on their own. This is the essence of the concept of rule by consent. We consent and our government governs. The problem with the virtue of liberty standing alone is apparent. If individuals are able to withdraw their consent at will, then citizenship is easily fractured. And it can become very difficult to coordinate collective activity for the greater good. The American solution to that shortcoming has been to counterbalance the virtue of liberty in more or less equipoise with the virtue of justice. Our approach to justice has taken the form of our healthy and respectful reverence for the rule of law. The American Constitution is the best statement of our approach to justice, a system of laws and legal processes embodying checks and balances as a bulwark against tyranny or faction within our government. This is a generalization, but I think a fair one. Republicans have emphasized liberty and Democrats have emphasized justice in their party platforms in the past. But everyone who mattered accepted the general framework of liberal democracy. Given that, the often fractious politics of America have mostly been about continually re-striking the balance as needed between liberty and justice. Here is where Donald Trump is genuinely different. He is the first President, or even major party candidate for President, who does not believe in liberal democracy. He does not believe in the virtue of liberty. Nor does he believe in the virtue of justice. What do I mean? Let’s start with liberty. Donald Trump does not believe that individuals are sovereign or have inalienable rights. He believes that in the best form of government, there is only one sovereign, and that is the leader, who enjoys nearly complete authority to decide what’s best. Citizens have little right to resist or push back against what the sovereign decides. In current day Russia, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Philippines, China and North Korea, among others, this is how government works and, on numerous occasions, Trump has openly admired the leaders of those countries and envied the powers that they enjoy (to the embarrassment of patriotic Americans serving in the military and State Department). Nor does Trump believe in the American virtue of justice. Our idea of justice relies heavily on the notion of a government that operates in a system of checks and balances that prevents any one person or faction from gaining too much control. Trump makes no bones that he is willing to remove all checks and balances on the authority of the President to act unilaterally. Other presidents from both parties have chafed at times at the legal processes and requirement of persuasion that a President is subjected to, but no American President has done more than Trump to undermine the institutions responsible for telling the Executive Branch when it has overstepped its authority. That will only snowball if Trump gets a second term. This is a unique moment in our history. We have never had a candidate for President from a major party who does not believe in the principles of liberal democracy. But we have the tools to fight back. The founders of our country worried about men like Trump. They knew from history that democracies are fragile and that demagoguery can be powerful. The founders taught us that the antidote to demagoguery is the rule of law. Lovers of the rule of law, like me, will be voting against Trumpism. There is one more thing. Please re-read Matthew 25: 31-45. I want my President to aspire to be on the right hand when the day comes. Donald is the poster boy for the left hand. Ps. I can’t resist also saying that the point of the Mueller report, the Senate Intelligence Committee reports and the so-called Clapper Report* was that there is convincing evidence that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election and that Putin was in control. Collusion has become a red herring. Collusion would have been a hanging offense, but it was not proven. That's why Fox News keeps whining about no collusion. It is to distract us from what the Russians have done. The indignity remains that Putin interfered (attacked our election in 2016) and the current administration has done nothing about it. *To jog your memory: In January 2017, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a report compiling the conclusions of the CIA, FBI and NSA. It said, “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations. We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    B. Rule

    Applebaum's concise appraisal of the current political situation of the West is equal parts interesting practical application of others' theories of authoritarianism (i.e., Timothy Snyder, Karen Stenner, Hannah Arendt, etc.), and self-aggrandizing preening and score-settling with ex-friends. It's that personal connection that gives the book its greatest punch. Applebaum was friends with many of the current figures on the international right who have embraced authoritarian ideas, and she is able Applebaum's concise appraisal of the current political situation of the West is equal parts interesting practical application of others' theories of authoritarianism (i.e., Timothy Snyder, Karen Stenner, Hannah Arendt, etc.), and self-aggrandizing preening and score-settling with ex-friends. It's that personal connection that gives the book its greatest punch. Applebaum was friends with many of the current figures on the international right who have embraced authoritarian ideas, and she is able to describe their shared past and contrast it with their present positions, all while skewering them mercilessly as only a friend can. I found her descriptions of the current political crises in Poland, the U.K., Hungary, and the U.S. to be perceptive, succinct, and terrifying. She is excellent at highlighting just how anti-democratic and cynical a lot of current nationalist thinking is. Applebaum would probably describe herself as a classical liberal or a right-leaning centrist; in her telling, that was what conservatism meant up through the late '90's. Ronald Reagan is her cultural hero, and she measures the current Right by their adherence to that viewpoint. It's an admirable and inspiring view of conservatism. It's also largely fictional. The authoritarian streak in conservatism long precedes the Reagan Revolution, and their respect for democracy and the rule of law has often been far more mercenary and flexible than the rhetoric would admit. That's great that Applebaum believed in the city on the hill. I believe her belief is genuine, and those of many conservatives are too. But I'm highly skeptical of this viewpoint as descriptive rather than aspirational. Applebaum is quite dismissive here of leftist critiques of racism, sexism, police brutality, etc., waving them away as people who "dislike America." In my opinion, those are the people who love the U.S. best. They are seeking to expand the promises of the founding documents and the rule of law to all, not just white men. Curious that Applebaum correctly understands that America's strength is commitment to certain abstract principles rather than skin color, nationality, or accidents of geography (as she paints the Old World order), yet fails to recognize that hope for change is precisely what makes a great American. She is blind to visions of the good that fall outside the narrow band of centrist liberalism, whether right- or left-leaning. It's clear, though, why Applebaum cannot see the value of these popular movements. She is, at heart, an elitist. Not in a conspiratorial sense, but in her view of what politics is and how the world works. This whole book is obsessed with her connections to power and all its trappings. The book opens with a fancy party at her Polish estate, and it closes with another! She sees politicians through a psychological lens of resentment and envy. Over and over, her friends turn to authoritarianism because they feel they were not given their due under democratic meritocracy. In her view, politics is a Great Game of status-seeking for an international, centrist elite. The great pity of the global turn to authoritarianism is that it elevates small-minded people over her (current) friends, who are of course brilliant and really deserve to run things! Her vision of the good polity is a dinner party, not an open affair or a block party. Her vision is put to hilarious and cutting effect here, where she can offer withering takes on her former guests, but it might feel quite parochial if you don't run in her circles. While I appreciated her insider critiques, it's also quite chilling to realize that the global elite who exercise the most power in this world are largely playing out a juvenile high-school drama with life-and-death stakes for the rest of us. Read this if you want the hot goss on a lot of fascists; if you want a more structural take on how we landed here, this is a perceptive but incomplete analysis.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    I enjoy reading Anne Applebaum’s books, especially her books on the Gulag and on Communism in Eastern Europe. This book is short, relative to her other books. My sense is that this began as an article or monograph and then expanded to its current size. The focus of the book is on the rise of autocracy across Europe and the United States. Applebaum’s intent is to examine how democracies can be subverted and follow a political trajectory away from democracy and towards autocracy. This involves a s I enjoy reading Anne Applebaum’s books, especially her books on the Gulag and on Communism in Eastern Europe. This book is short, relative to her other books. My sense is that this began as an article or monograph and then expanded to its current size. The focus of the book is on the rise of autocracy across Europe and the United States. Applebaum’s intent is to examine how democracies can be subverted and follow a political trajectory away from democracy and towards autocracy. This involves a survey of European cases related to the rise of Trump in the US. The question is how a society can move from a solidly legitimate democratic constitution and cultural ethos and towards a negative and cynical nostalgia driven perspective on institutions that delegitimates democracy and lures citizens towards the greater simplicity and stability of more autocratic regimes. To address this, Ms. Applebaum produces a series of cases, based in part on her experience, examining how these trends developed in Poland, Hungary, the United Kingdom, and the US. She is an accomplished journalist and has connections within the upper levels of her case studies. She is also a first rate historian who can place these cases in context and draw clear and often startling conclusions. The general topic, combined with her many skills, leads to a fun and effective book. To get the most out of the book and its punchlines, readers can look at this in conjunction with Masha Gessen’s recent book - Surviving Autocracy. Twilight of Democracy was published in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and it complicates the story. On the one hand, there is a sense that Ms. Applebaum was trending towards a bit of optimism at the end of the book, ... except that it is also likely that the new autocrats will see the pandemic as an opportunity not to be missed - one that can help them maintain and enhance their power. Orban in Hungary is an example. That is, as long as the pandemic crisis is effectively managed and does not become a liability for the autocrat. Hmmm... This is a fine book and shows a superb mind working through a complex set of problems. I look forward to seeing how her thinking further develops as events unfold.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Radiantflux

    77th book for 2020. Not much meat. Lots of name dropping about fascists that Applebaum was apparently friends with at some point, but who don't go to her parties anymore. There is some interesting-ish analysis of the rise of rightwing populist movements, but nothing that hasn't be written about 100x already in the last few years. 2-stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: An extended essay considering the shift to authoritarian leaders in Europe and the United States, analyzing both why such leaders are attractive, and the strategies they used to gain power. Anne Applebaum's book might be subtitled, "The Tale of Two Parties." It is bookended with a party in 1999, and one in 2019. Many on the guest list of the first would not be on the second, or even on speaking terms with the author. Applebaum is a center-right neo-conservative, married to Radek Sikorski Summary: An extended essay considering the shift to authoritarian leaders in Europe and the United States, analyzing both why such leaders are attractive, and the strategies they used to gain power. Anne Applebaum's book might be subtitled, "The Tale of Two Parties." It is bookended with a party in 1999, and one in 2019. Many on the guest list of the first would not be on the second, or even on speaking terms with the author. Applebaum is a center-right neo-conservative, married to Radek Sikorski, a Polish politician. For much of her career she has written award-winning books documenting Soviet-style totalitarianism. The time of 1999 was a heady one, with former eastern bloc countries embracing Western style liberal democratic ideals (at least to some degree). The book begins with Applebaum describing the fate of three of those on the list, one who had drawn close to Poland's Law and Justice party leader and would no longer speak to her, another who had become an internet troll, amplifying American alt-right proponents, while a third had become engrossed in conspiracy theories. Throughout the book, Applebaum moves between trying to understand what has happened to her friends, and what is happening in a number of European countries, from Poland and Hungary, to England and the United States, where shifts have occurred to authoritarian ideas and leaders. She explores how contemporary movements differ from fascism and Communism. Instead of the "Big Lie," these leaders use the Medium-Size Lie designed to play on fears and offer simple explanations for complex realities--immigration explains economic woes and crime, for example. Sometimes it is a conspiracy, for example "the deep state," when in fact the real conspiracy lies with the networks of people fomenting these ideas. She describes how this works for example in Viktor Orban's Hungary, where all of Hungary's woes can be attributed to non-existent Syrian refugees (to whom Hungary never opened their borders) and George Soros, whose conspiratorially funded the immigrant hordes. All of this buttresses a corrupt, self-serving government where power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of its leader. Chillingly, Applebaum observes that studies show roughly one-third of the people in most societies to be susceptible to authoritarian leaders, particularly in times of upheaval. She discusses the appeal of nostalgia, the longing for some idealized past when those appealed to dominated the culture as an alternative to the pluralistic, multi-ethnic cultural landscapes that increasingly characterize both Europe and the United States. She describes how Boris Johnson leveraged this nostalgia in the run-up to Brexit, even though the English had led the initiative forming the European Union. Particularly dangerous, she believes, are the "restorative nostalgics" whose "memory" of the past is often selective, and whose vision for restoration reflects those gaps in an idealized version of the past. She portrays the manipulation of digital media streams to promote the narrative, including the characterization of established media as "fake" and part of the "conspiracy." She writes:    This new information world also provides a new set of tools and tactics that another generation of clercs can use to reach people who want simple language, powerful symbols, clear identities. There is no need, nowadays, to form a street movement in order to appeal to those of an authoritarian predisposition. You can construct one in an office building, sitting in front of a computer. You can test messages and gauge the response. You can set up targeted advertising campaigns. You can build groups of fans on WhatsApp or Telegram. You can cherry-pick the themes of the past that suit the present and tailor them to particular audiences. You can invent memes, create videos, conjure up slogans designed to appeal precisely to the fear and anger caused by this massive international wave of cacophony. You can even start the cacophony and create the chaos yourself, knowing full well that some people will be frightened by it. (117-118) She describes the shift she saw in once-friend Laura Ingraham. I think one of the most important insights she offers here is the increasing concern Ingraham, and others like Pat Buchanan have over the evidence of American moral decline, of various forms of extremism from "cancel culture" to overreach into religious communities breaching First Amendment protections that have led her and others to conclude that these cannot be fought by "politics as usual" but require more extreme measures and justify "undemocratic" means. I wish Applebaum would have done more with what I thought a perceptive observation. I know people like those Applebaum describes, and one thing that is overlooked is that most of these feel that figures like our current President are the first to take them seriously. Many of these people live in America's heartland. They probably are more religious. Most work hard and pay their taxes. And they feel patronized by many politicians, overlooked, treated as part of "flyover" country. Like Laura Ingraham, they also feel they are witnessing a "twilight of democracy." While I am deeply sympathetic to Applebaum's concerns about authoritarianism, all her talks about toney parties with fellow refugees from the neo-con movement don't really address the concerns of the time adequately. She concludes by addressing some vague hope in the cycles of history to right things, which seems to me a hope that, after a time, the "right" people will regain power. My observation is that we are in the midst of more and more violent pendulum swings, with winners and losers becoming increasingly energized against one another. What I do agree on with Applebaum is that democracies are not indestructible. Might it be that recognizing our common care about the future of democracy may be a starting point for a different kind of political conversation? Might it be that this common, and urgent concern could bring people together from across the political spectrum who all perceive the abyss toward which we are hurtling? I cannot help but think that this next decade may be decisive in many ways for our country--and for humankind. Will the twilight we are in give way to night--or a new dawn?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Democracy is always, according to the author, on the verge of destruction. There are people who cannot deal with the complexities of life. They seek unity, and homogeneity in thought. They fight vehemently against those that do not believe in the same things. Look at the disenfranchised white American male. Trump tells them about law breaking immigrants from Mexico, Muslims who wish to kill them and trade partnerships that are destroying American jobs. Fox News either gives the president talking p Democracy is always, according to the author, on the verge of destruction. There are people who cannot deal with the complexities of life. They seek unity, and homogeneity in thought. They fight vehemently against those that do not believe in the same things. Look at the disenfranchised white American male. Trump tells them about law breaking immigrants from Mexico, Muslims who wish to kill them and trade partnerships that are destroying American jobs. Fox News either gives the president talking points or magnifies the president’s gibberish. Do this enough and people start to believe the lies. They start to hate. They coalesce into a frightening mob. In time, our freedoms are taken away so that people can “feel” safe from those that want to hurt them and their country. Democracy dies. Victor Orban did it in Hungary. The Law and Justice Party did it in Poland. Recep Erdogan did it in Turkey. Trump is doing it in the United States. PLease vote this November. Our Democracy depends on it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Anne Applebaum draws on her years of reporting in Poland and England and continental Europe as well as the United States to explain the appeal of authoritarianism to people in a democracy. Her approach is chilling; she begins with her long experience in Poland, and later England, and I was horrified to watch the spread of authoritarianism in those countries, knowing all the time what has been happening here as well in the United States, unable to feel the little thrill of self-satisfaction that Anne Applebaum draws on her years of reporting in Poland and England and continental Europe as well as the United States to explain the appeal of authoritarianism to people in a democracy. Her approach is chilling; she begins with her long experience in Poland, and later England, and I was horrified to watch the spread of authoritarianism in those countries, knowing all the time what has been happening here as well in the United States, unable to feel the little thrill of self-satisfaction that I once had, that "it can't happen here" belief. Knowing what sparks it, knowing how it spreads, knowing it's happening in many other places---none of that quells the feeling of being bugs caught in a spider's web, of watching the spider circle and wrap us up.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dramatika

    An excellent book trying to provide an analysis of the current rise of the populist nationalist and authoritarian rhetoric around the world, but especially in The former Soviet block and the States. I gave 5 stars for the mere attempt of analysis of the situation we are in as I think that deeper and more thorough one is only possible after we passed this. This book made me think and try to be more attentive to the political mood around me. The only drawback is the so called cultural bubble that An excellent book trying to provide an analysis of the current rise of the populist nationalist and authoritarian rhetoric around the world, but especially in The former Soviet block and the States. I gave 5 stars for the mere attempt of analysis of the situation we are in as I think that deeper and more thorough one is only possible after we passed this. This book made me think and try to be more attentive to the political mood around me. The only drawback is the so called cultural bubble that the vast minority of the thinkers and political analysts exist in. They tend to sometime draw broad conclusions based on the relative advanced and informed (although that is not the norm on some topics) opinions where in reality the rest of the ordinary people have very different often conservative or backwards views.. I suffer from this as well and completely understand and relate to the party scene in the beginning of the book. in the meantime I continue following this brilliant author , whose views I do not share completely but respect and admire.

  17. 4 out of 5

    J-P Williams

    Written by a neo-con and the way facts are cherrypicked. Her preening reminiscences about the Thatcher/Raegan era are a big red flag. She views and presents that period as being a paragon of democracy - which is simply incongruous to reality. It's well written but repeatedly ignores key events and whitewashes a lot of history to push forward a twisted neo-conservative alternative. This makes for some depressing reading, but a perfect example of why we are where we are right now with people just Written by a neo-con and the way facts are cherrypicked. Her preening reminiscences about the Thatcher/Raegan era are a big red flag. She views and presents that period as being a paragon of democracy - which is simply incongruous to reality. It's well written but repeatedly ignores key events and whitewashes a lot of history to push forward a twisted neo-conservative alternative. This makes for some depressing reading, but a perfect example of why we are where we are right now with people just like Anne Applebaum running things under the major failures of the political 'New-left' (Blair, Obama, Clinton etc.). She discusses 'violent' left-wing ideology but conveniently ignores American mass ethnic cleansing and race-violence of the KKK and never acknowledges the Prison Industrial Complex, police-state or the 'war on drugs' and the targetting of the poor through modern 'austerity' politics. Bailing out of the banks is not even a thought. Instead, she presents the typical one-sided view. Yet another look at a blind and privileged mind and its rationalisations. All the more repulsive as it comes from a professor of History, but of course that just indicates the obvious of how and what we're teaching to students at London School of Economics doesn't it?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    In Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Anne Applebaum presents her reflections on ”soft dictatorship [which] does not require mass violence to stay in power. Instead, it relies upon a cadre of elites to run the bureaucracy, the state media, the courts, and, in some places, state companies. These modern day clercs understand their role, which is to defend the leaders, however dishonest their statement, however great their corruption, and however disastrous their impact In Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Anne Applebaum presents her reflections on ”soft dictatorship [which] does not require mass violence to stay in power. Instead, it relies upon a cadre of elites to run the bureaucracy, the state media, the courts, and, in some places, state companies. These modern day clercs understand their role, which is to defend the leaders, however dishonest their statement, however great their corruption, and however disastrous their impact on ordinary people and institutions. In exchange, they know that they will be rewarded and advanced.”. Applebaum primarily utilizes contemporary Poland and Hungary to illustrate her reflections. Applebaum adds additional examples, and the implications of Applebaum’s reflections for the current U.S. regime is clear. For those of us who live in the U.S. and who read with horror about, as an example, the Trump regime elevated Trump’s totally unqualified son-in-law to head the acquisition and dispersal of desperately needed supplied to combat COVID-19 actions and Trump’s routine disparagement of public health experts and expertise, Applebaum’s points about meritocracy especially hit the mark: ”You can call this sort of thing by many names: nepotism, state capture, corruption. But if you so choose, you can also describe it in positive terms: it represents the end of the hateful notions of meritocracy, political competition, and the free market, principles that, by definition, have never benefited the less successful. A rigged and uncompetitive system sounds bad if you want to live in a society run by the talented. But if that isn’t your primary interest, what’s wrong with it?” Applebaum explains the seemingly inexplicable revanchist movements in what were once liberal western democracies, with would-be autocratic leaders seeking to return their nations to mythical, nationally and racially pure pasts. Together with such other recent books such as Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, and Federico Finchelstein’s A Brief History of Fascist Lies, Anne Appebaum’s Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism is essential reading for those seeking to understand the current worldwide undermining of western democracies. 4.5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martin Henson

    There is no doubt that Anne Applebaum can write - this long essay on the rise of contemporary authoritarianism is informed by Applebaum's close involvement with important players in several countries, including Poland, Hungary, the UK, and the US. This turns out to be both a strength and a weakness of the book. Like Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, Twilight of Democracy is bookended by parties that capture evolving social and political dynamics. In Our Mutual Friend it is changing attitudes t There is no doubt that Anne Applebaum can write - this long essay on the rise of contemporary authoritarianism is informed by Applebaum's close involvement with important players in several countries, including Poland, Hungary, the UK, and the US. This turns out to be both a strength and a weakness of the book. Like Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, Twilight of Democracy is bookended by parties that capture evolving social and political dynamics. In Our Mutual Friend it is changing attitudes towards class and social hierarchy that are explored - and, at the end, it falls to Mr Tremlow to speak up against the prevailing snobberies, and we see him aligning with Mortimer Lightfoot (in the wonderful BBC adaptation, looking out over the Thames with cigars and whisky). By such small shifts do social changes occur. Applebaum's parties track centrifugal changes in what appeared to be "moderate" right wing attitudes that later lurched towards the outright authoritarian (and her circle's realignment with some of the "moderate" left - in those attending the party recorded at the end of the essay). What follows the millennium party that begins the book is a compelling and fascinating exposition of the rise of authoritarian politics and tactics across a number of countries - differing in degree and extent - by someone with direct personal knowledge of many of the key players. For those of us in the UK, the descriptions of Boris Johnson - from someone who has known him - as a lazy narcissist come as no surprise, but are nonetheless compelling reading. The description of the hideous Bullingdon Club's members as ironists is not explored sufficiently, however. So, some ex-members are now embarrassed (but in what way?) and - evidently - Johnson and Applebaum's own husband view it as "an extended joke" (p. 61). Sometimes irony is the excuse bad behaviour makes for ... bad behaviour - it is not in the least bit funny. Clearly, from all we know about Johnson, his modus operandi is entirely based on a deep lack of seriousness for the serious. But I digress. Unfortunately, Applebaum's close connections and personal politics weaken the book. This mostly concerns the extent to which she tries to diagnose the seductive lure of authoritarianism. There is a useful and worthwhile regference to Boym's The Future of Nostalgia (p. 73) with its contrast between reflective and restorative nostalgia, the latter being a myth-making of the past, in this case for political ends. It is somewhat related to Snyder's concept of the politics of inevitability (The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America). But this kind of nostalgia is a symptom and technique of authoritarianism rather than explanatory, we are still left asking why it is so successful. There is also discussion of an authoritarian disposition identified with simple-mindedness - a reaction to complexity and division (p. 106, reflecting on the work of Karen Stenner). But again, it is not entirely clear that complexity is radically different from other times that have not seen an authoritarian turn. She discusses immigration, inequality, and wage decline - acknowledging the issues but without concluding that these are clearly the triggers (pp. 106 - 109). She is rather more persuaded by the changes in communication, leading to divisiveness and hyper-partisanship, as leading to terminal distrust of establishment politics (e.g. p. 114), as significant. Here she is in good company - but it is hardly a novel observation that social media has offered a whole host of opportunities for manipulation, and by a whole range of actors. However, fundamentally, she is speaking from what she sees - nostalgically one might say - from a more "reasonable" past of Thatcherite free-market liberals (or pro-rule-of-law [who is actually against rule of law?] pro-market centre rightists). In some sense paternalistic but also libertarian to large extent. But those years from the mid-70s, through the Reagan-Thatcher consensus, to the present day was a Hayek-ian revolution of neoliberalizaton (a word that does not appear in this book). This turned out to be not simply an technocratic approach to running an economy but a fully fledged social philosophy (one explored in detail, for example, in the work of Wendy Brown (e.g. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution and In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West). In this book, however, these notions of what Applebaum calls the "centre right" are not described in detail but feel almost cuddly. For others, this period has been an unmitigated disaster, and one which is also being explored diagnostically as an explanation for the rise of authoritarianism. Similarly, Applebaum uses the term far left, freely with essentially nothing to support it beyond its scary self. The examples of the left she gives are largely references to history rather than to the present, and to its undemocratic history at that. What is entirely missing here is any proper engagement with the current left in relation to the rise of authoritarianism. To be sure, there is and has been an anti-democratic and authoritarian left - but to be "centre right" (in Applebaum's cuddly sense) is not a place of refuge from which it is easy or even really possible to, on the one hand, well-document the rise of the authoritarian right, and on the other make passing references to the "far left" (the only party mentioned by name is Podemos, though there is implicit reference to Syriza. There is also mention of the UK's Labour Party as far-leftist). As a centre-rightist one is hardly obliged to agree with their politics - but it is unreasonable to treat them as some unfulfilled alternative to the ascendent antidemocratic authoritarian far right. No doubt Applebaum would see DiEM25 as far left too - but, seriously, antidemocratic with authoritarian tendencies? Overall, a compelling description - because she was able to write this from the inside track in several countries. But as an analysis: no.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe1207

    Apologies for the long-winded review. TLDR: this book is well-written and reasoned; it’s thought-provoking if you don’t read it in bad faith; I expected nothing less from a staff writer at The Atlantic, but I was still pleasantly surprised; it reminded me of a conversational complement to The Captive Mind, which makes sense after Applebaum’s excellent cover story. One possible downside is the size of the book itself: 189 pages, Now, some reviewers (I’m looking mainl Apologies for the long-winded review. TLDR: this book is well-written and reasoned; it’s thought-provoking if you don’t read it in bad faith; I expected nothing less from a staff writer at The Atlantic, but I was still pleasantly surprised; it reminded me of a conversational complement to The Captive Mind, which makes sense after Applebaum’s excellent cover story. One possible downside is the size of the book itself: 189 pages, <30 lines per page, 7.5”x4.5”. Now, some reviewers (I’m looking mainly at the most-liked review here on Goodreads) rated this poorly and wouldn’t recommend it for reasons that suggest to me they misunderstood the author and her arguments. They say Applebaum fawns on Reagan and Thatcher as “emblematic of democratic government” without acknowledging her introspection at their shortcomings, i.e. “Some of what [Thatcher] achieved turned out to be either purely symbolic or not particularly useful” (64), or the last chapter about the cyclical nature of politics and the failures (with opportunities to improve) of constitutional democracies compared to tyrannies, dictatorships, etc. They ask why Applebaum doesn’t mention Reagan’s Iran-Contra or Thatcher’s putdown of striking miners alongside, I presume, Stalin’s gulags or Chile’s military junta, and that they “commit[ted] the same sin” of authoritarianism, making the author a hypocrite who doesn’t entertain nuance—all without seeing the irony of such a statement. There are places where readers can have reasonable issues; what this reviewer calls “ideological baggage,” or offhand sentences that detract from the author’s argument, i.e. the debatable line or two regarding America’s poor, or the “most apocalyptic visions” of American civilization in the first century and a half coming from the left. But this takes Applebaum out of context and misrepresents her broader points. The author makes clear we’re living through a worldwide nationalistic, apocalyptic-inspired, conspiratorial, populist, right-wing movement, one she hopes is soundly defeated and replaced with multipolar, optimistic, truth-seeking, meritocratic governments—despite the minor (by comparison) flaws that this new ruling party may (and will) have. Applebaum isn’t waxing about Reagan or Thatcher so much as trying to return to a fairly bipartisan coalition that agrees on and values independent jurisprudence, human rights, international cooperation, etc. She looks back in order to diagnose the authoritarian elements that had always been just out of sight, waiting for the ideal conditions to emerge; of the many characteristics outlined above, she highlights how anarchic rhetoric has some history in left-wing thinking: the “system” is rigged and needs to be abolished/rewritten, etc. (Before Trump, populist fiscal policies, such as tariffs, were viable ideas on the left.) Out of context, it’s easy to get the wrong impression and think she’s drawing false equivalences when she isn’t. Applebaum reminds us that authoritarianism isn’t a personality, or privy to a particular party—it’s a predisposition. And as someone whom witnessed the attack on center-right politics by the extreme right’s deleterious discourse, as a historian of Eastern Europe under the watchful eye of the Soviets, and as a Polish national reporting on that country’s spiraling democracy under Andrzej Duda, Applebaum offers the left invaluable insights and a cautionary tale we would be remiss to ignore or push away simply because she belongs to the “other” side. Let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater, or tell ourselves that it could “never happen to us,” etc. etc. ad infinitum. I understand and relate to the instinct for ideological purity—it’s hard not to draw generalizations in this emotional moment. Seeking to understand the other side when that side is associated with Trump and renewed racism, sexism, xenophobic/homophobic impulses makes towing the party line easy; adding caveats at best sounds quaint, ineffective, and self-defeating, at worst like collaboration. Reading tame, thoughtful books like Applebaum’s, in this environment, makes us question her motives, or wonder how her ideas might be appropriated by the alt-right. Instead of punishing the bad-faith actors that spin her message, or clarifying the questions she poses that could potentially use more polish, or giving her the benefit of the doubt when a minor error isn’t indicative of her thesis, we attack the author herself. You can see why some on the right call the left hypocrites if, say, they’re caught arguing about how Marx’s ideas aren’t bad in and of themselves—they were just misused. Suddenly, anti-pluralism is en vogue, intolerance isn’t illicit, and empathy propitiates evil. Convince yourself you’re a crusader for good and the method doesn’t matter— but association does—and dogmatism is just another cudgel only you and your side can wield. As it happens, you and your side are also the executors and executioners. Right now, Democratic Party leadership (more or less) acts responsibly and holds representatives to account for ethical transgressions, ignoring the vocal, bolder wing. Al Franken resigned because his party drew a line; Ilhan Omar felt pressured to apologize after her critical comments of Israel evoked anti-Semitic tropes. On the other side is Greg Gianforte, who assaulted a journalist but still won a seat in the House; Ron DeSantis told voters not to “monkey this up” as he faced a black man for the governorship, and won; neither had the incentive nor compunction to apologize because of their party’s leadership—and with Trump’s hold on the party, they feasibly couldn’t even if they wanted to: Mitt Romney is the exception, Jeff Flake is the norm. But Democrats could just as easily find themselves inching in that direction if their party believes minor cruelties are excusable or small inconveniences of speech policing can be overlooked so long as they adhere to party doctrine. It wouldn’t take much for the moral high-ground thinly separating the two parties to disappear, allowing for further polarization, unrest, and malaise. I worry that this could become a feature and not a bug of our country’s political life, depending on how we handle this moment: if we rise above reactionary politics, learn to look for the good, listen more than speak, etc. Which is to say, I disagree with the author on some small points, but not the major ones—and I would recommend it. Yes, and.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Tankersley

    So many current events books I’ve picked up by Europe-based reporters are based on sensationalism and conjecture. This book is not. It certainly has an opinion, but it is built on a sober assessment of facts which are clearly cited. I appreciate that so much. I now have a new, better perspective on current politics in Hungary, Poland, the UK, and Spain, as well as the US. But I also was startled to hear that the new form of government that seems to be taking hold in all of these places has echoe So many current events books I’ve picked up by Europe-based reporters are based on sensationalism and conjecture. This book is not. It certainly has an opinion, but it is built on a sober assessment of facts which are clearly cited. I appreciate that so much. I now have a new, better perspective on current politics in Hungary, Poland, the UK, and Spain, as well as the US. But I also was startled to hear that the new form of government that seems to be taking hold in all of these places has echoes of the Soviet system of patronage based on following a line of party orthodoxy rather than merit. I strongly encourage you to read this slim volume and consider the author’s points. In living through this era, I seem to have lacked the perspective to see some of the echoes of history in it. Thanks to Anne Applebaum for illuminating the world that I live in so that I can better navigate through a time of rising darkness.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    There are these days a welter of books discussing, from different perspectives and with differing arguments, our current political climate. Consequently, it is notable when I read one that truly adds value and insight to our troubled times. Ms. Applebaum’s most recent book — The Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism — is that kind of book. In just under 200 pages, she skillfully weaves personal anecdote with both experienced and studied history, providing the kind of in-per There are these days a welter of books discussing, from different perspectives and with differing arguments, our current political climate. Consequently, it is notable when I read one that truly adds value and insight to our troubled times. Ms. Applebaum’s most recent book — The Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism — is that kind of book. In just under 200 pages, she skillfully weaves personal anecdote with both experienced and studied history, providing the kind of in-person testimony of one who has directly experienced a culture — that of Poland, where she and her husband live — which has moved rapidly from the heady apparent liberalism of the years immediately following the fall of communism to the increasingly authoritarian regime of the current day, a regime that retains the outward trappings of democracy while utilizing the engines of right-wing populist nationalism. She also discusses in some detail recent developments in Hungary, Great Britain, Spain, Italy and, of course, the US. The book is too rich in insight and anecdotes to summarize easily, so I only wish to note the three thoughts that I am most keen on retaining: First, there are ALWAYS competing narratives of “who we are as a people,” “how we came to be the distinct and/or exceptional nation,” and “which history — memory or never-was-nostalgia — is to be cherished and taught.” It is only in times of extreme tensions, when, perhaps, things seem to be falling apart or no longer working, that most of us become aware of these competing narratives and beliefs. But they are always there. Second, there are always among us people who are attracted towards varieties of authoritarianism, preferring order, strong leaders, the comfort of simple narratives without competing versions, and who distinctly prefer the company of their “own” (narrowly defined as people who think and act like they do) to the threatening presence of those who are “different” — the “others.” When times are good — widespread economic prosperity being one of the measures of “good” — the always existing tensions and differences among us are less noticed and, therefore, less grating. But when times are tough — and, Lord knows, the current times of political instability, the politics of rage, and the unchecked pandemic of COVID-19 certainly qualify as “tough” — then the apparent consensus weakens, disparate voices arrive, and those wishing to maintain simplicity and order quickly look for, and flock to, those offering them the comfort of “we” against “them.” This certainly can happen on the “Left” but it is more likely — and today more evident — among the “Right.” Third, human life — political life — has always, something like a clock’s pendulum (remember when clocks had them?), swung back and forth. We have had times of great instability and societal fractures before. While she gives several instances of them in other countries as well, it is good for us to remember that here in the good ol’ USA so have we! There was the huge tussle between the colonists who sided with the revolutionaries and those who wished to remain loyal to the mother country during the revolutionary days, for instance. And we had the competing narratives of the rural and frontier people against that of those in settled cities. The greatest fissure of all was, of course, the Civil War, a reminder that sometimes these cultural fissures are resolved violently. But in the 20th century alone we had the reaction to the First World War when mass sentiment swung against immigrants and there was an upsurge of racism: lynchings, the Ku Klux Klan revived, and the construction of statures all over the place celebrating the Lost Cause. Then, prior to our entry into WWII there were those whom we remember as “isolationists” who desperately wanted to keep our country out of the war, a lingering remembrance of our history as a country uninvolved with other nations, something about which George Washington warned us in his Farewell Address. Opposing them were those who were convinced that the Nazi threat was not confined just to Europe and that we had better become prepared sooner rather than later. That debate was not always calm and gentlemanly. These there was the post WWII furor over “communists” supposedly everywhere, which led to the McCarthy era witch-hunts of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Then Vietnam, then... Well, you get the picture. However, just because such social tensions are common doesn’t mean that each is not somehow different, nor is it in any way an argument that our current times will also, somehow, happily “pass away.” The lure of authoritarianism throughout the West is stronger now than it has ever been in my lifetime of 77 years and it reminds me, as an historian, of the horrific 1930s when Western leaders fiddled and fumbled while Japan, Italy, and Germany were creating strong nationalist, authoritarian, military states. Applebaum’s book is a call to recognize the great threat and a summons to fight it by acting to retain our liberal democracies rather than doing nothing and allowing them to wither and morph into true autocracies. The clock is ticking!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Helga Cohen

    Applebaum is a leading historian of communism and of contemporary politics and a Pulitzer Prize winning author. In this book, she tells stories of people who became or are becoming authoritarian in Poland, Hungary, Spain, England and America. Born in the US with a journalism career based in England and living in Poland with her husband, Applebaum has covered these topics for 3 decades. She is well connected to those on both sides of the conservative rifts that have arisen to authoritarianism. Sh Applebaum is a leading historian of communism and of contemporary politics and a Pulitzer Prize winning author. In this book, she tells stories of people who became or are becoming authoritarian in Poland, Hungary, Spain, England and America. Born in the US with a journalism career based in England and living in Poland with her husband, Applebaum has covered these topics for 3 decades. She is well connected to those on both sides of the conservative rifts that have arisen to authoritarianism. She describes the social forces that power this wave-fear of immigrants, the rise of social media, and culture wars over religious values-and she discusses how the cold war triggered this split among conservatives. Applebaum warns, “I will not offer either a grand theory or a universal solution. But there is a theme: Given the right conditions any society can turn against democracy.” Applebaum has written much about left authoritarianism but this book focuses on right authoritarianism. She focuses on the one-party state with some limited opposition, the illiberals-those who restrict freedom of thought and behavior, or a partial democracy. Her views are well grounded with personal experiences and years of investigative reporting. She explains how friendships were torn apart, ideals betrayed and alliances broken. She left the Republican party in 2008. This book is well worth reading. Her views of Poland are incisive. She explained how there was a glimmer of hope a few years ago but it has faded with chauvinism and bigotry under the banner of “under the White Eagle” patriotism. It is a very thought provoking and rational book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    A center-right book that sees the phenomena and misses the point. How could good friends on the right like Laura Ingraham who she was chummy with back in the Reagan days become out and out authoritarians? She seems to think things were swell back in the days of Reagan Thatcher. Neoliberalism created the conditions to make her conservative buddies in Europe an America slip to the dark side. It is a hazard built into the neoliberal project. If you make things great for the market and the 1% and lo A center-right book that sees the phenomena and misses the point. How could good friends on the right like Laura Ingraham who she was chummy with back in the Reagan days become out and out authoritarians? She seems to think things were swell back in the days of Reagan Thatcher. Neoliberalism created the conditions to make her conservative buddies in Europe an America slip to the dark side. It is a hazard built into the neoliberal project. If you make things great for the market and the 1% and lousy for everyone else which is what neoliberalism does it produces a lot of anger and with a left movement without organization or financial backing (rich people don't like political forces that challenge their bottom line, who'd of thought) that anger gets channeled into the authoritarian right which many on the right have few problems with since it never challenges money or power. Political opportunists on the right can channel this anger and enrich themselves and consolidate power. Not too hard to figure out unless you are a neoliberal who dreams of the 1980s and 1990s.

  25. 5 out of 5

    R.

    Conservatives concerned about what the right has become are some of its best critics. I'd read this again. I have the same feeling reading this book as I did reading Madeleine Albright's latest. Same subject area, but because Americans almost never have to defend democracy it's easy to experience it as frustrating. It is good and healthy to be reminded of how fragile democracy is and how cyclical history may be, and to hear arguments about why democracy is important rather than just taken for gr Conservatives concerned about what the right has become are some of its best critics. I'd read this again. I have the same feeling reading this book as I did reading Madeleine Albright's latest. Same subject area, but because Americans almost never have to defend democracy it's easy to experience it as frustrating. It is good and healthy to be reminded of how fragile democracy is and how cyclical history may be, and to hear arguments about why democracy is important rather than just taken for granted as table stakes. I know people both left and right frustrated by the slow progress and persistent failure to live up to American ideals, and some of them support extreme remedies that involve dismantling our civic and political institutions. The idea that something better is going to come along if we can just sidestep those pesky people voting against their own interests is a great mirage, and is one way you might end up with paramilitary death squads or the guillotine. I think Americans in particular have a historical viewpoint that is Whiggish as one of endless progress and improvement. Applebaum is right to point out that the Founders, great readers of Classics, knew that this was not actually the case, and this book is a great and brief reminder of how different and potentially dangerous this moment is. Don't sleep on this one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This was a long essay that should not have been turned into a book in my opinion because you get the whole argument in the article and the book does not add all that much.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    The last thing anyone wants to do is go back to a time that once was...yet this is exactly what we've done in electing (albeit a minority) to the greatest office in the land. Authoritarianism is nothing new yet we seem surprised to find ourselves in a nation that now rules by force, threats, intimidation, lies, and via use of power to control the masses. We have placed our own military against our citizens! I'm not sure what wake up call you need but this book surely is a great start! As a malignant The last thing anyone wants to do is go back to a time that once was...yet this is exactly what we've done in electing (albeit a minority) to the greatest office in the land. Authoritarianism is nothing new yet we seem surprised to find ourselves in a nation that now rules by force, threats, intimidation, lies, and via use of power to control the masses. We have placed our own military against our citizens! I'm not sure what wake up call you need but this book surely is a great start! As a malignant narcissist survivor I know this is just the tip of the iceberg as the greater danger has yet to be seen. The notion that this all accumulated not under a third country rule but in these United States is more perplexing as immigration, naturalization, corruption, white nationalist groups, and so much more have been at the center of this discussion with Applebaum. Greed is at the top of this nightmare and it all comes down to complacency and turning the other cheek rather than creating legislation and bringing charges against those who dare take our nation down this rocky road. Every day I get up and see DT in the news it's a win for his team. Negative air time for him is still free air time that he desperately needs to keep his leadership and his inner message of hate flowing to his GOP base. The fact that he will alter our nation with his Supreme Court justices for a lifetime is reason enough for any women to not walk but run to the polls in droves. Please do your civic duty in voting and have your voices heard! Thank you to my local library for this hardcover during these strange times.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tucker

    Very useful for its summaries of the current political situations in Poland and Hungary and how they compare with the situations in the UK and the US that are more widely known. My slight hesitance here is that I can't quite identify with someone who was Republican until only 12 years ago. The book is potentially informative of fault lines that have always existed within American conservatism. It seems the author wrote this as a lament (in part, and indirectly) for not picking her friends and col Very useful for its summaries of the current political situations in Poland and Hungary and how they compare with the situations in the UK and the US that are more widely known. My slight hesitance here is that I can't quite identify with someone who was Republican until only 12 years ago. The book is potentially informative of fault lines that have always existed within American conservatism. It seems the author wrote this as a lament (in part, and indirectly) for not picking her friends and colleagues more carefully, but she doesn't mention if she feels any sense of responsibility or complicity for the direction that many other conservatives went in, then and now, or if she feels overall that she was "one of the good ones" or "one of the bad ones" in her past endeavors. Anyway, to put a medium-fine point on it, depending on who you are in the USA, you may not have had a real conversation with a conservative since 2001 or 1984 or 1968. That the Republican Party has pursued full-on Nazification within the past five years and that upper-echelon conservative commentators are increasingly feeling the pinch within their own social stratum is indeed a sad curiosity, but millions of Americans have been complaining about dimensions of this problem for their entire lives. Anyway, there aren't any solutions in this book. It is very correct and very sad. If you get anxious when you don't have a takeaway about how you can resist authoritarianism and when you have no assurance that the moral arc of history will bend toward democracy, well, this will be bleak for you. Ultimately the book is a gentle warning to all of us to pay close attention to our circles of comradeship because we are all #*$&-% and those who are most vulnerable will need to rely on each other. The author is telling us what personality traits most lean toward authoritarian structure and that there's not much to be done about those people except to avoid them. I blogged more detail on Medium.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tensy (bookdoyen)

    While this is more of an extended essay than an exhaustive treatise by Pulitzer Prize winner, Anne Applebaum a neoconservative, it describes the lure of authoritarianism in international and American politics. I found the chapters dealing with Hungary, Poland and Spain especially instructive since one of our biggest failings in American media is that rarely does it focus on what is happening in the rest of the world. The similarities between Trump, Johnson (UK) and other European leaders was sta While this is more of an extended essay than an exhaustive treatise by Pulitzer Prize winner, Anne Applebaum a neoconservative, it describes the lure of authoritarianism in international and American politics. I found the chapters dealing with Hungary, Poland and Spain especially instructive since one of our biggest failings in American media is that rarely does it focus on what is happening in the rest of the world. The similarities between Trump, Johnson (UK) and other European leaders was startling, even to the similarity in punditry, "Make America Great" is identical to Spain's "Hacer Espana Grande Otra Vez." It's almost as if all these men are using some sort of authoritarian rule book: stoke fear of immigrants, subvert the rule of law and constitutional checks and balances, promise a nostalgic return to the past when white men ruled and when your country was special, control the media and the message (use the medium-size lie and conspiracy theories) and discredit academia, because who needs experts when a person with an over-sized ego will decide everything for you based on Twitter facts and give you the safety you seek from the complexity and pluralism that defines democracy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian Asalone

    excellent. Kind of like listening to a very intelligent and insightful woman discourse on the complexity of a modern society with all its various aspects and the unending appeal of simplistic autocratic solutions.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.