“When Gessen speaks about autocracy, you listen.” —The New York Times
“The Platonic ideal of the anti-Trump Trump book.” —The Washington Post
As seen on MSNBC Morning Joe and heard on NPR All Things Considered: the bestselling, National Book Award-winning journalist offers an essential guide to understanding, resisting, and recovering from the ravages of our tumultuous times.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, Masha Gessen stood out from other journalists for the ability to convey the ominous significance of Donald Trump’s speech and behavior, unprecedented in a national candidate. Within forty-eight hours of his victory, the essay “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” had gone viral, and Gessen’s coverage of his norm-smashing presidency became essential reading for a citizenry struggling to wrap their heads around the unimaginable. Thanks to the special perspective that is the legacy of a Soviet childhood and two decades covering the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, Gessen has a sixth sense for signs of autocracy—and the unique cross-cultural fluency to delineate its emergence to Americans. This incisive book provides an indispensable overview of the calamitous trajectory of the past few years. Gessen not only highlights the corrosion of the media, the judiciary, and the cultural norms we hoped would save us but also tells us the story of how a short few years have changed us, from a people who saw ourselves as a nation of immigrants to a populace haggling over a border wall, heirs to a degraded sense of truth, meaning, and possibility. Surviving Autocracy is an inventory of ravages but also a beacon to recovery—or to enduring, and resisting, an ongoing assault.
National Book Award winner Gessen (The Future Is History) delivers a scathing indictment of the Trump administration's impact on "the American system of government." Drawing on Hungarian sociologist B lint Magyar's concept of "autocratic transformation," Gessen links Trump's dominance over the Republican Party; "disdain for excellence," particularly in the workings of government; manipulation of state institutions for personal gain; and packing of the federal courts with ultra-conservative judges to developments in "post-Communist countries" following the collapse of the Soviet Union. She also dissects Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric and castigates the U.S. media for normalizing the behavior of education secretary Betsy DeVos and other Trump appointees by "privileg neutrality above all else, including substance" and "plac artificial limits on a journalist's ability to observe reality." Gessen ends her brisk, trenchant account with a call for "political figures of powerful moral authority" (she nominates the four freshman congresswomen known as "the Squad") to combat Trumpism with a more inclusive and dignified vision of "America as it could be." Gessen's meticulous research and familiarity with the political and cultural history of post-Soviet Russia lend her arguments an authority lacking in other takedowns of Trump. Liberals looking to make sense of what they're up against in the 2020 elections should consider this a must-read.