Tuesday, November 15, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum

Our book group’s next pick is Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum. I’m glad I read it after the election rather than before, though it’s a depressing book no matter when/how you look at it.

Applebaum gives a definition of authoritarianism and describes its rise in the twenty-first century. She starts with the rise of fascistic authoritarianism in Poland and Hungary, moves through the Brexitism of England, and ends with Trumpism in the U.S.  The root causes are many, but the politics of resentment and the ease of spreading disinformation thanks to the internet and social media are major factors. People who look to authoritarianism are those who are uncomfortable with complexity and want a leader who can pare away the noise associated with diversity of opinion. It’s easier to sit in a bubble or echo chamber and listen only to the voice telling you what you want to hear. Both sides are guilty of this.

It’s difficult to end such a book on an optimistic note. The best she can do is to point out that, historically, factions are the norm and unity is never more than an elusive ideal. I suppose if we sit back with a detached view and watch history unfold, realizing that civilizations go through endless cycles, we don’t need to be overly concerned. Faith in democratic ideals may be on the wane, war may break out, authoritarian regimes may take hold and stamp out democracy for now, but in another few centuries, some brave idealists will once again have a go at it.

Or maybe our children and grandchildren will do a better job of defending it than we have.

It’ll be an interesting book group.

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