Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century

ISBN

Publisher

Imprint

Year Published

Print Length

Format

SKU

9780691211411
Princeton University Press
NA
2022
288
Paperback
2248

375.00

In stock

How a new breed of dictators holds power by manipulating information and faking democracy

Description

Hitler, Stalin, and Mao ruled through violence, fear, and ideology. But in recent decades a new breed of media-savvy strongmen has been redesigning authoritarian rule for a more sophisticated, globally connected world. In place of overt, mass repression, rulers such as Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Viktor Orbán control their citizens by distorting information and simulating democratic procedures. Like spin doctors in democracies, they spin the news to engineer support. Uncovering this new brand of authoritarianism, Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman explain the rise of such “spin dictators,” describing how they emerge and operate, the new threats they pose, and how democracies should respond.

Spin Dictators traces how leaders such as Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Peru’s Alberto Fujimori pioneered less violent, more covert, and more effective methods of monopolizing power. They cultivated an image of competence, concealed censorship, and used democratic institutions to undermine democracy, all while increasing international engagement for financial and reputational benefits. The book reveals why most of today’s authoritarians are spin dictators―and how they differ from the remaining “fear dictators” such as Kim Jong-un and Bashar al-Assad, as well as from masters of high-tech repression like Xi Jinping.

Offering incisive portraits of today’s authoritarian leaders, Spin Dictators explains some of the great political puzzles of our time―from how dictators can survive in an age of growing modernity to the disturbing convergence and mutual sympathy between dictators and populists like Donald Trump.

Praise and Reviews

"A fascinating new book." ― The Economist "[A] well-researched and entertaining book."---Tony Barber, Financial Times "With meaty graphs and well-organized evidence . . . Guriev and Treisman advance subtler arguments, as they show that authoritarian rulers can come to power by democratic means and stay there."---Adam Gopnik, New Yorker "As Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman persuasively argue in Spin Dictators, their absorbing, meticulous study of the evolution of authoritarianism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, craft and deception have in recent decades supplanted fear and terror as the defining characteristics of today’s autocratic rulers. . . . In diagnosing a critical problem and proposing a prophylactic, Guriev and Treisman have performed a great service to the field of geopolitics."---Michael M. Rosen, Washington Examiner "A deeply researched tour d’horizon of the evolving dark arts of authoritarian politics."---G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs "The authors carefully document dozens of strategies used by authoritarian regimes around the world to successfully pass themselves off as populist supporters of democracy when the actual goal is tyranny and absolute power. As depressing as this scenario may be, the authors do politically concerned readers an immense favor, enabling us to recognize these tactics and, with that knowledge, ultimately oppose this new breed of dictator." ― Booklist "Thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening."---Joshua Huminski, Diplomatic Courier Review “In Spin Dictators, Guriev and Treisman go right to the heart of one of the most difficult issues of our time: The abuse of modern communications technology by authoritarian leaders for propaganda, spin, and manipulation. Anyone concerned about the future of democracy should read this book.”―Anne Applebaum, staff writer for the Atlantic and author of Twilight of Democracy “Spin Dictators traces the evolution of modern authoritarian government, and the way it has adopted many of the techniques of democracy itself, while exploiting the latter’s vulnerabilities. It serves as a timely warning of the challenges facing democracies today.”―Francis Fukuyama, author of Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment “Guriev and Treisman have written a brilliant book, identifying and explaining a new type of autocracy. Spin Dictators is an instant classic―a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the resilience of these dictatorships as well as their possible future demise.”―Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and author of From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia "Today’s autocrats are different from yesterday’s; they claim to be democrats and eschew open repression and violence. This insightful and highly original book explains how they rule by manipulating information, shaping public narratives, and bending the formal rules of democracy to their will. Guriev and Treisman have produced an exemplary book―based on serious research yet readable and accessible."―Dani Rodrik, Harvard University

About the Author

Sergei Guriev is professor of economics and director of graduate studies in economics at Sciences Po in Paris and former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Twitter @sguriev Daniel Treisman is professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev. Twitter @dstreisman

Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century

How a new breed of dictators holds power by manipulating information and faking democracy

Description

Hitler, Stalin, and Mao ruled through violence, fear, and ideology. But in recent decades a new breed of media-savvy strongmen has been redesigning authoritarian rule for a more sophisticated, globally connected world. In place of overt, mass repression, rulers such as Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Viktor Orbán control their citizens by distorting information and simulating democratic procedures. Like spin doctors in democracies, they spin the news to engineer support. Uncovering this new brand of authoritarianism, Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman explain the rise of such “spin dictators,” describing how they emerge and operate, the new threats they pose, and how democracies should respond. Spin Dictators traces how leaders such as Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Peru’s Alberto Fujimori pioneered less violent, more covert, and more effective methods of monopolizing power. They cultivated an image of competence, concealed censorship, and used democratic institutions to undermine democracy, all while increasing international engagement for financial and reputational benefits. The book reveals why most of today’s authoritarians are spin dictators―and how they differ from the remaining “fear dictators” such as Kim Jong-un and Bashar al-Assad, as well as from masters of high-tech repression like Xi Jinping. Offering incisive portraits of today’s authoritarian leaders, Spin Dictators explains some of the great political puzzles of our time―from how dictators can survive in an age of growing modernity to the disturbing convergence and mutual sympathy between dictators and populists like Donald Trump.

Praise and Reviews

"A fascinating new book." ― The Economist "[A] well-researched and entertaining book."---Tony Barber, Financial Times "With meaty graphs and well-organized evidence . . . Guriev and Treisman advance subtler arguments, as they show that authoritarian rulers can come to power by democratic means and stay there."---Adam Gopnik, New Yorker "As Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman persuasively argue in Spin Dictators, their absorbing, meticulous study of the evolution of authoritarianism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, craft and deception have in recent decades supplanted fear and terror as the defining characteristics of today’s autocratic rulers. . . . In diagnosing a critical problem and proposing a prophylactic, Guriev and Treisman have performed a great service to the field of geopolitics."---Michael M. Rosen, Washington Examiner "A deeply researched tour d’horizon of the evolving dark arts of authoritarian politics."---G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs "The authors carefully document dozens of strategies used by authoritarian regimes around the world to successfully pass themselves off as populist supporters of democracy when the actual goal is tyranny and absolute power. As depressing as this scenario may be, the authors do politically concerned readers an immense favor, enabling us to recognize these tactics and, with that knowledge, ultimately oppose this new breed of dictator." ― Booklist "Thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening."---Joshua Huminski, Diplomatic Courier Review “In Spin Dictators, Guriev and Treisman go right to the heart of one of the most difficult issues of our time: The abuse of modern communications technology by authoritarian leaders for propaganda, spin, and manipulation. Anyone concerned about the future of democracy should read this book.”―Anne Applebaum, staff writer for the Atlantic and author of Twilight of Democracy “Spin Dictators traces the evolution of modern authoritarian government, and the way it has adopted many of the techniques of democracy itself, while exploiting the latter’s vulnerabilities. It serves as a timely warning of the challenges facing democracies today.”―Francis Fukuyama, author of Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment “Guriev and Treisman have written a brilliant book, identifying and explaining a new type of autocracy. Spin Dictators is an instant classic―a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the resilience of these dictatorships as well as their possible future demise.”―Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and author of From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia "Today’s autocrats are different from yesterday’s; they claim to be democrats and eschew open repression and violence. This insightful and highly original book explains how they rule by manipulating information, shaping public narratives, and bending the formal rules of democracy to their will. Guriev and Treisman have produced an exemplary book―based on serious research yet readable and accessible."―Dani Rodrik, Harvard University

About the Author

Sergei Guriev is professor of economics and director of graduate studies in economics at Sciences Po in Paris and former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Twitter @sguriev Daniel Treisman is professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev. Twitter @dstreisman
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