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Publisher Description

The Tenacity of Tyranny: The Sources of 21st century Despotism poses this question: Given that democratic countries constitute 55% of humanity and that the material standard of living are generally considerably higher in many democracies than in almost all of the world’s dictatorships, what are the factors that allow for autocratic regimes to persist? Despotism should be an ever-shrinking phenomena but that is not the case. Using political classification data from Freedom House, the books posits that there are three distinct types of authoritarianism in practice. The first and most significant source of modern despotism is the legacy of communism: the majority of people who today live under despotic regimes (about one-quarter of humanity) are the direct consequence of the ability of Leninist state autocracies to maintain their political stranglehold on power. This is the subject of Chapter Two. While the “puppet” regimes of the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the Cold War, there still are 13 countries, 12 of which are contiguous in Eurasia led by Russia and China, that constitute a continuation of the “Communist Bloc” of political systems based on ruthless tyranny, mostly due to the capacity of neo-communist elites to ensconce themselves in power by utilizing secret political police forces to crush most open dissent. The second major source of despotism in the modern world is the overriding influence of some particularly retrograde Islamic doctrines in many Muslim societies which is the focus of Chapter Three. There are eight Muslim-majority countries that are broadly democratic enough to be classified as “Free” accounting for about one-fourth of the total number of persons who live in all Muslim-majority countries. The broad social influence of Islam has been a potent source of traditional authoritarianism as there are 40 countries in the world today with a combined population of about 13% of humanity that are Muslim-majority dictatorships. While all religions such as Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism have posed challenges to the emergence of democratic institutions since 1789, the recalcitrance of Islam has been particularly intense as there are several specific aspects of Islamic theology that lend far too much authority to this political outcome. Most Muslim countries have had a difficult time of separating mosque and state and thus in establishing secular government, promoting pluralism and women's rights which are necessary prerequisites for modern democracy. The third source of despotism in the modern world is poverty. There are 25 poor countries which account for about 8% of humanity and are ruled by dictators that try to keep themselves in power by deliberately keeping the vast majority of their subjects in abject poverty and thus relatively powerless. This is the subject of Chapter Four which focuses on the “stationary bandit” paradigm of the “kleptocratic” state. These dictatorships are profoundly and inherently weak governments and tend to be located in the tropical zones of Earth. The fifth chapter concerns the most dangerous threat of potential despotism: the rise of neo-fascist demagogues utilizing “populist” or “ethno-nationalism” dogmas. Ever since Classical Athens, demagogues have always been the Achilles heel of the singular greatest internal threat to the stability of democracy because demagogues stoke fear and rule by reckless emotion, particularly scapegoating hatred, rather than considered reason. If democracy is going to fail, it will not be due to external invasion by the world’s remaining autocracies, but rather by the ability of such internal demagogic and supremacist political movements to gain control of the state. Each chapter in the book concludes with a manifest lesson that needs to be learned and heeded so that democratization can be strengthened and extended around the globe which is the necessary political process if the common problems facing humanity are ever going to be resolved.

Politics & Current Events
March 17
Gregory Larkin
Smashwords, Inc.

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