The age of the strongman



March 1, 2022

The age of the strongman

Book Review

The book age of strogman is an examination of the modern rise of authoritarianism and its various dimensions. Vladimir Putin was first to the gate taking power in 2000 and setting about reversing democratic gains won since the fall of the Soviet Union, crushing political opposition and sweeping aside institutions obstructing his absolutist rule. Xi Jinping, “clearly nostalgic for some of the Maoist themes of his youth,” followed suit in China.

The nub, writes the author, is that neither Russia nor China is a superpower as such meaning that their authoritarian power does not yet extend far beyond their borders. Not so with the U.S. under Donald Trump, who clearly studied Putin and other dictators, trading in all the hallmarks of strongman rule: a disdain for the courts and other democratic institutions, a strongly enforced cult of personality, nationalism and anti-globalism, a base that is uneducated and rural and the insistence that American greatness is undermined by the machinations of the “deep state” and Jewish financier George Soros.

Interestingly, writes the author, that notion of the deep state is borrowed from the authoritarian regime in Turkey, while the Soros meme is widespread among rightists and anti-semites across the world. Just as interestingly, he observes, the intellectual basis for the new authoritarianism is international, linking enough suspect characters to justify a conspiracy theory:

Trump confidant Steve Bannon, say, hangs out with Italian fascists and Putin associates and reads the work of Carl Schmitt, the now-rehabilitated Nazi legal philosopher. “Trump’s defeat in 2020 does not mean that the danger has passed,” writes the author but by way of small comfort, he also observes that even the longest-lived authoritarian regimes have shelf lives, hastened by the general incompetence of their leaders in the face of such things as the pandemic. TW

You can also check the hangman and his wife


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