It’s not easy being a dictator these days. Since the end of the Cold War, dictatorships worldwide have been on the decline and those that survive have changed dramatically. Not so long ago, blunt weapons were used to keep citizens under control, but in a globalised world connected to new media more subtle methods for preserving power have replaced yesterday’s forms of intimidation.
The Dictator’s Learning Curve gives a fascinating insight into the way dictators are adapting to the demands of the modern world, and their insidious efforts to disguise their regimes as democracies. Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gaddafi may be gone, but the Arab Spring is only the latest front in a worldwide battle between freedom and oppression. In this page-turning and authoritative book, William J. Dobson illuminates the connections and differences between authoritarian regimes in places as far apart as Russia, China, Venezuela, Egypt and Malaysia. Drawing on first-hand testimony from those close to these governments and those who challenge them – from incarcerated dissidents, student revolutionaries, to Serbian and American 'trainers in nonviolent revolution' –Dobson shows that we are witnessing an incredible moment in the war between dictators and democracy.
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[The Dictator's Learning Curve] says something really fresh about the world we live in - Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year
Intelligent and absorbing - New York Times
He writes with exemplary clarity and a sharp eye for colour… Timely, authoritative and as readable as a novel, this is one of Autumn’s most resonant books – not least because it ends on a note of guarded hope for the future - Prospect
Dobson captures empathetically the skill and insight of modern neo-despots. Rare is the book on dictatorship that can end on an uplifting note that its narrative carefully substantiates - Financial Times
A thoughtful journey through formidable dictatorships of our time, where smart, authoritarian leaders have learned clever tricks to ensure that they do not become yesterday’s men… Instead of offering caricatures of vintage dictators, Dobson observes the more dangerous trend – of dictators adopting the form of democratic governance - Independent
[A] deft, incisive book... The mix of perspectives results in an impressive overview of the global struggle between authoritarian power and determined advocates of political freedom. - Publisher's Weekly
It is hard to imagine a timelier book than this one... Anyone seeking to make sense of the extraordinary tide of revolutions and protests sweeping around the world will find [this] an indispensable read -
Says something really fresh about the world we live in - Sunday Telegraph
By this author
About the Author
William J. Dobson is politics and foreign affairs editor for Slate. He has been an editor at Foreign Affairs and Newsweek International. Under his direction, Foreign Policy won the coveted National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2007 and 2009. His articles and essays have appeared in TheNew York Times, TheWashington Post, and TheWall Street Journal. He lives in Washington, DC.