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In this riveting portrait of authoritarianism in peril, acclaimed journalist William Dobson takes us inside the relentless battle between dictators and the people challenging their rule.
We are witnessing an incredible moment in the war between dictators and democracy—waves of protests are sweeping Syria and Yemen, and despots have fallen in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. But the Arab Spring is only the latest front in a worldwide battle between freedom and repression, a battle that also rages in a dozen other countries from Venezuela to China, Russia to Malaysia. It is a struggle that, until recently, dictators have been winning hands-down. The reason is that today’s authoritarian regimes are nothing like the frozen-in-time government of North Korea. They are ever-morphing, technologically savvy, and internationally connected, and they have replaced more brutal forms of intimidation with seemingly “free” elections and talk of human rights. Facing off against modern dictators is an unlikely army of democracy advocates—students, bloggers, environmentalists, lawyers, activists, and millionaires—who are growing increasingly savvy themselves. The result is a global game of cat-and-mouse, where the future of freedom hangs in the balance. Dobson takes us behind the scenes in both camps, and reveals how each side is honing its strategies for the war that will define our age.
"After a remarkable year in which citizens of a dozen countries have challenged their authoritarian
governments, readers will welcome veteran journalist Dobson’s overview of the complicated dance of
adaptation by the world’s dictators and those who resist their oppressive power. . . . A timely, valuable contribution to readers’ understanding of global unrest." —Booklist
"[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." —Publishers Weekly starred review
“A brilliant and original analysis of the nature of modern authoritarianism.” —Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“William Dobson is that rare thinker who combines a gift for storytelling with an understanding of how the world works. Marrying a historian’s judgment with a journalist’s eye for detail, he spots the emerging trends that others miss. The Dictator’s Learning Curve offers an essential perspective on a crucial struggle.” —Fareed Zakaria, author of The Future of Freedom and The Post-American World
“A vivid real-time portrait of the movement for democracy. Among its virtues, Dobson’s book clarifies the ways in which the recent challenge to dictatorship represents a coordinated worldwide effort, and the ways in which each country's struggle is unique.” —James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic and author of China Airborne
“It is hard to imagine a timelier book than this one. William Dobson provides a new framework and a new vocabulary for understanding modern authoritarianism, backed up by detailed and gripping stories of dictators and their citizen opponents in Russia, China, Venezuela, Egypt, and Malaysia. Anyone seeking to make sense of the extraordinary tide of revolutions and protests sweeping around the world will find The Dictator’s Learning Curve an indispensable read.” —Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University, and former Director of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department