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Published in: Society 4/2022

13-07-2022 | BOOK REVIEW

Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman, Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century

Princeton University Press, 2022, 340 pp., ISBN: 978-0-691-21141-1

Author: Richard Sakwa

Published in: Society | Issue 4/2022

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Excerpt

Things are changing in the world of dictatorship. Authoritarian leaders of the classic stamp ruled by fear, terrorising their populations and thereby imposing their will on society. Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined coercion with the radical restructuring of the relationship between citizen and the state. By contrast, dominance today is exercised in more subtle ways, shaping an environment in which acquiescence is achieved through a minimum of violence, and in which citizens effectively become complicit in their own subjugation. Dictatorships of fear have given way to spin dictators. Mass repression has been replaced by distorting information and simulating democratic procedures. The masters of the new dark arts of authoritarian governance are Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They stage regular elections and emulate democratic practices, but ensure that they are insulated from the possibility of genuine political change. So runs the core argument of this contribution to the burgeoning literature on contemporary authoritarianism. …
Footnotes
1
Hans Kribbe, The Strongmen: European Encounters with Sovereign Power (Newcastle, Agenda Publishing, 2020).
 
2
Gideon Rachman’s The Age of the Strongman: How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy Around the World (London, Bodley Head, 2022).
 
3
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (New York, Viking, 2018).
 
4
Fareed Zakaria, ‘The Rise of Illiberal Democracy’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 76, No. 6 (November/December 1997), pp. 22–43; idem, The Future of Freedom (New York, W. W. Norton, 2003).
 
5
James Der Derian, On Diplomacy: A Genealogy of Western Estrangement (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 135.
 
Metadata
Title
Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman, Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century
Princeton University Press, 2022, 340 pp., ISBN: 978-0-691-21141-1
Author
Richard Sakwa
Publication date
13-07-2022
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Society / Issue 4/2022
Print ISSN: 0147-2011
Electronic ISSN: 1936-4725
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-022-00749-1

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