The Revenge of Power
How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century
Named one of the New Yorker's Best Books of 2022
“An authoritative and intelligent portrait of the global spread of authoritarianism and its dangers...what sets [this] work apart from books like Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny and Michiko Kakutani’s The Death of Truth is its unusually comprehensive armada of facts about the international drift over the past two decades toward authoritarian leaders, whether old-style dictators like Kim Jong Un or nominally elected presidents like Vladimir Putin.” —Kirkus
An urgent, thrilling, and original look at the future of democracy that illuminates one of the most important battles of our time: the future of freedom and how to contain and defeat the autocrats mushrooming around the world.
In his bestselling book The End of Power, Moisés Naím examined power-diluting forces. In The Revenge of Power, Naím turns to the trends, conditions, technologies and behaviors that are contributing to the concentration of power, and to the clash between those forces that weaken power and those that strengthen it. He concentrates on the three “P”s—populism, polarization, and post-truths. All of which are as old as time, but are combined by today’s autocrats to undermine democratic life in new and frightening ways. Power has not changed. But the way people go about gaining it and using it has been transformed.
The Revenge of Power is packed with alluring characters, riveting stories about power grabs and losses, and vivid examples of the tricks and tactics used by autocrats to counter the forces that are weakening their power. It connects the dots between global events and political tactics that, when taken together, show a profound and often stealthy transformation in power and politics worldwide. Using the best available data and insights taken from recent research in the social sciences, Naím reveals how, on close examination, the same set of strategies to consolidate power pop up again and again in places with vastly different political, economic, and social circumstances, and offers insights about what can be done to ensure that freedom and democracy prevail.
The outcomes of these battles for power will determine if our future will be more autocratic or more democratic. Naím addresses the questions at the heart of the matter: Why is power concentrating in some places while in others it is fragmenting and degrading? And the big question: What is the future of freedom?
Journalist Na m, a former executive director of the World Bank, revisits his 2013 book The End of Power in this trenchant if familiar look at the resurgence of autocratic regimes around the world. Contending that the technological and demographic changes that undermined the authority of established political and corporate institutions at the turn of the 21st century also unleashed a backlash among those "determined to gain and wield unlimited power," Na m analyzes Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Hungary's Viktor Orb n, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, and other "aspiring autocrats" who came to power through "a reasonably democratic election" and rely on populism, political polarization, and misinformation "to maintain democratic appearances while furtively undermining democracy." He attributes startling acts of violence and deceit to these leaders, accusing Putin of orchestrating a series of apartment bombings in Russia in 1999 and Rodrigo Duterte of sponsoring "death squads" in the Philippines, but also blames deindustrialization, corporate consolidation, and the anticompetitive practices of giant tech companies for fostering "status dissonance" and giving autocrats the tools to exploit it. Though Anne Applebaum, Timothy Snyder, and Yascha Mounk have covered similar ground, Na m delivers a cogent and accessible overview of the new authoritarianism. Readers will agree that the matter is of urgent concern.