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Modern Tyrants: The Power and Prevalence of Evil in Our Age
 
 

Modern Tyrants: The Power and Prevalence of Evil in Our Age [Kindle Edition]

Daniel Chirot

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Review

"Chirot's insightful book looks squarely at radical evil ... and warns us of the array of new onslaughts against democratic values and governments that are to be expected from various quarters, most often in the name of some collective identity or self-styled expression of community."--Vladimir Tismaneanu, Journal of Democracy

"Chirot's classification scheme for understanding modern tyrannies makes this survey a valuable sourcebook on dictatorships.... A disquieting and ominous road map of the twentieth century's political horrors."--Publishers Weekly

"Chirot's approach is both useful and unusual, as it isn't driven by ideology.... His book should be of lasting value as a quick reference to many of the worst regimes of our century.... Chirot's conclusions ... [are] clearly stated and intelligent."--Peter A. Jay, The Washington Times

Review

Chirot's insightful book looks squarely at radical evil ... and warns us of the array of new onslaughts against democratic values and governments that are to be expected from various quarters, most often in the name of some collective identity or self-styled expression of community. (Vladimir Tismaneanu Journal of Democracy )

Chirot's classification scheme for understanding modern tyrannies makes this survey a valuable sourcebook on dictatorships.... A disquieting and ominous road map of the twentieth century's political horrors. (Publishers Weekly )

Chirot's approach is both useful and unusual, as it isn't driven by ideology.... His book should be of lasting value as a quick reference to many of the worst regimes of our century.... Chirot's conclusions ... [are] clearly stated and intelligent. (Peter A. Jay The Washington Times )

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 965 KB
  • Print Length: 522 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 002905477X
  • Publisher: Free Press (7 Feb 1994)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003ZDOUSC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #746,434 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An essential study and explanation of evil 23 April 2003
By The Peruvian Wunderkind - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Chirot's text is a study of various tyrannies that took root during the twentieth-century. Although his primary focus is on those regimes most would not rationally have difficulty accepting as tyrannies (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot), he does accept that there existed various government regimes throughout the last century (Pinochet, Ataturk, Franco) sitting on the `periphery' of his classificatory scheme: depending on whether one chooses to critique the states' ultimate accomplishments or the means they used to get there, one could make a strong argument either way. A fuller discussion of these borderline regimes and their corresponding features would have been enlightening, but Chirot, understandably, explains that these considerations needlessly broaden the text's project. I also note a reviewer's commentary that s/he wished there had been less concern with the tyrants' personal lives. Although I agree that this practice sometimes veers into the tabloid-esque and challenges the seriousness and scholarly tone of the text (anyone want to know how many ties Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo had in his personal collection?), it is instructive to see that tyrants were, in fact, people capable of the same personal failings as the rest of us. With respect to tyrannies bent on realizing a given ideology, the fact that even the ruler deviated from the very standards that his/her subjects was forced to observe demonstrated the impracticability and inhumanity of their rule.
More than a plodding historical survey of twentieth-century tyranny, Chirot seeks to ask why the Hitlers and the Stalins arose when they did. This question prompts him to consider tyranny not as a unique and static phenomenon but, rather, a result of emerging ways of thinking that materialized out of the West during the nineteenth century. In particular, the superiority granted to the discourse of science and its findings led to a chain of circumstances (decentring of God, social Darwinism, colonialism) that informed not only how nation-states were governed, but also the rationalizations for governance. Chirot makes a strong case that since the rise of tyranny in the twentieth-century nation was largely a product of identical emerging discourses, many tyrannies shared not only the same features, but also evolved in similar ways.
Buttressing these features is the discourse of science; its emphasis on logic and absoluteness compels the (potential) despot to rule according to the `tyranny of certitude.' For example, Marxism, which many influential thinkers believed was the science of history, provided the impetus for Stalin, Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, Kim Il Sung and many others to construct a brutal, rigid and unyielding understanding of social organization. No matter the countless atrocities they committed in following their road map, such rulers `knew' that their scientific construction of politics would eventually give rise to a social utopia and allow a formerly great people to realize their place in the world. That these policies left the countries in much worse shape than when the leaders assumed control is a cruel and poignant irony.
Pick this book up. It is a fascinating and enlightening read.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideology Outkills Greed 15 Aug 1999
By Allan from San Francisco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The author does a splendid job of analyzing a substantial number of modern dictators, both great and petty, to illustrate their commonalities and differences and to show what drives them to do what they do. Like Dostoevsky, Chirot shows us that ideology can be deadly and that it can drive political leaders to commit the most heinous crimes. It is, as he points out, their false sense of scientific certainty that pushes them to ignore not only moral rules, but even the constraints of reality and practicality. The result has too often been regimes that have had to kill in order to sustain their unrealistic fantasy-land regimes. There may be differences between the Hitlers and the Stalins of the world, but there are also too many disturbing similarities.
The author is to be commended for including the views of Nobel Prize-winning economist Hayek in his book, but instead of just utilizing the ideas in Hayek's THE ROAD TO SERFDOM, he should also have used Hayek's THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION OF SCIENCE. In this book, Hayek showed that the techniques of the physical sciences cannot (and certainly should not) be used in the social sciences--they simply don't apply there. But the idea that "science" can be used to construct a perfect world (or even a "better society") was a staple concept among 19th century European political writers and theorists, Marx being only one example. What a terrible mess was made of the world when this mistaken notion was put into practice! Chirot's book is a valuable addition to political knowledge, because he does not hesitate to point this out, and to show how (and WHY)ideology can lead to mass murder. Well worth reading.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly good 29 Mar 2002
By timothy hilliard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Chirot exposes some of the underpinnings that made the 20th century the bloodbath that it was.From the growing belief that scientific engineering could improve humans and possibly create Utopia;from the disjointedness and rootlessness that created a growing alienation with the trappings of modern life and the myths and hopes of a return to a slower-paced,more tribalistic,golden-age Utopianism;from the political charlatans who stepped into this morass to exploit it to their advantage.It's all here in great detail and erudition.Chirot ends the book with a not so comforting thought:that as long as there are masses of dissatisfied people there will be amoral madmen who will come and try to rally them.One disappointment with the book is that Chirot barely adresses the intellectual lights who advocated and willfully ignored the atrocities of the regimes they supported.From Shaw,Heidegger,Russell and their ilk,Chirot hardly acknowledges the role these men played in making the worst tyranny and madness imaginable intellectually palatable to the public.A wonderful book on this subject is_The treason of the intellectuals_by Julien Benda.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is not a very good book. 12 Jan 2002
By Moten Swing - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Chirot starts off fairly well, with a good discussion of different views of tyranny. Even his detailed descriptions of Hitler's and Stalin's regimes also include some interesting analyses on their similarities and differences. But in his descriptions (and they are just that, with virtually no effort at analysis) of two African regimes, Iraq and Argentina, and Duvalier in Haiti and Trujillo in the D.R. are shallow and perfunctory. At the end, he completely runs out of steam. The concluding chapter, which purports to put forward some "formal propositions", does not even attempt to draw together the material from the various case studies, and confines itself to rather sophomoric generalizations.

Furthermore, Chirot has a pointless and distasteful habit of relating the prurient details of these tyrants' personal lives.

A research assistant could have put together most of this book, as the bulk of it simply recapitulates various secondary sources. Not much analysis here, even for undergraduates, and it's a waste of time for grad students.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book missing... 10 Mar 2009
By Jose Lopez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Borrowed this book from a Friend, book is missing Fidel Castro and The Castro Regime(Raul Castro and Co,Etc.) And How much the Cuban Communist Regime murdered close to 14,000 with the help Of Che Guevara to "El paredon".
Does mention Lenin,Stalin And How many he murdered, some say as Much or More Than the Holocaust, In his gulags, Genocide which the Left always ignores about their own (Castro,Che,China,Russia,Etc.) I felt the book as deep and long as it was, Was still missing alot of information and selective.Hopefully A Updated version will come out and include above mentioned along with Despots Chavez,Evo,Correa,Oretega,Lula,and the Emerging left in Latin America.
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