Book Author Podcast – Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat

What modern authoritarian leaders have in common (and how they can be stopped).

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is the expert on the “strongman” playbook employed by authoritarian demagogues from Mussolini to Putin―enabling her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America. In Strongmen, she lays bare the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years, and empowers us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.

For ours is the age of authoritarian rulers: self-proclaimed saviors of the nation who evade accountability while robbing their people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy. They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking by financial, sexual, and other predators.

They use masculinity as a symbol of strength and a political weapon. Taking what you want, and getting away with it, becomes proof of male authority. They use propaganda, corruption, and violence to stay in power.

Vladimir Putin and Mobutu Sese Seko’s kleptocracies, Augusto Pinochet’s torture sites, Benito Mussolini and Muammar Gaddafi’s systems of sexual exploitation, and Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump’s relentless misinformation: all show how authoritarian rule, far from ensuring stability, is marked by destructive chaos.

No other type of leader is so transparent about prioritizing self-interest over the public good. As one country after another has discovered, the strongman is at his worst when true guidance is most needed by his country.

Recounting the acts of solidarity and dignity that have undone strongmen over the past 100 years, Ben-Ghiat makes vividly clear that only by seeing the strongman for what he is―and by valuing one another as he is unable to do―can we stop him, now and in the future.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a historian and political commentator on fascism, authoritarian leaders, propaganda, and threats to democracy in America and around the world. Growing up in Pacific Palisades, California, where Thomas Mann and other well-known exiles from Nazism relocated, sparked her interest in these subjects. The recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, and other fellowships, she is author or editor of seven books and over 100 op-eds and essays in CNN, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, and other outlets. She’s Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, and Advisor to Protect Democracy. Follow her on Twitter @ruthbenghiat

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