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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century Paperback – 2 Mar 2017
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"The most coherent manifesto on confronting Trump… powerful." (Sarah Ditum New Statesman)
"Snyder’s beautifully weighted book is the perfect clear-eyed antidote to [Trump's] deliberate philistinism … Always measured in their observation, these 128 pages are a brief primer in every important thing we might have learned from the history of the last century, and all that we appear to have forgotten … You will read no more relevant field guide to that wisdom than this book." (Tim Adams Observer)
"On Tyranny is a slim book that fits alongside your pocket constitution and feels only slightly less vital... Clarifying and unnerving… a memorable work that is grounded in history yet imbued with the fierce urgency of what now." (Carlos Lozada Washington Post)
"Following paths trodden by Hannah Arendt, Czeslaw Milosz and Václav Havel, Snyder has written a manifesto for surviving the political rampages of our time with our rights and freedoms intact… Snyder’s book is addressed to the American reader, but its message is broader. Read in Budapest or Warsaw, it will have an especial resonance … Slim and accessible, On Tyranny is a book to read quickly, ponder slowly and pass on" (Annabelle Chapman Prospect)
"Urgent, indignant, winningly ragged in execution, On Tyranny is in the best tradition of polemical pamphlets. Timely agitprop, it offers some relief from Trump anxiety disorder." (Lewis Jones Daily Telegraph)
"Steeped in the history of interwar Germany, Snyder writes with bracing immediacy about how to prevent, or at least forestall, the repression of lives and minds." (Washington Post)
"We are rapidly ripening for fascism. This American writer leaves us with no illusions about ourselves" (Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature)
"On Tyranny will help you keep going for the next four years, or however long it takes." (Masha Gessen)
"He is undoubtedly a scholar of great distinction and authority… If more people follow Snyder’s injunctions to read newspapers, avoid falling for contrived online “scandals”, make friends across national boundaries and remember professional ethics then the world will indeed be a better place." (Michael Gove The Times)
"In an erudite yet accessibly manner, with brevity and precision, Snyder draws on his prodigious knowledge of 20th century despotism to present 20 sobering lessons for dealing with the Trump phenomenon" (Muhammad Idrees Ahmad National)
About the Author
Timothy Snyder is Levin Professor of History at Yale University, and has written and edited a number of critically acclaimed and prize-winning books about twentieth-century European history: his most recent book, On Tyranny, was an international bestseller. Previous books include Black Earth, which was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the annual prize of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee; and Bloodlands, which won the Hannah Arendt Prize, the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award in the Humanities and the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Snyder is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences, and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research.
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This brief 128-page book is a guide for the responsible citizen to help maintain their democratic society’s institutions and norms in the age of rising authoritarian populism, in 20 short chapters with titles like ‘Beware the One-Party State’, ‘Remember Professional Ethics’ and ‘Believe in Truth.’ Snyder illustrates each chapter with examples from history of how autocrats took control in stages in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and communist states in eastern Europe such as Czechoslovakia and Poland.
The writing is punchy, literate and of impressive brevity. There may be little new here for the intelligent and history-aware reader, but Snyder nevertheless reveals some gems: an explanation of the autocratic practice of ‘terror management’; the mechanism of how ‘truth dies in four modes’ (i.e. stages, each with a name and defining characteristics), and the subtle but important differences between a narrative based on “the politics of inevitability” and one firmly rooted in “the politics of eternity”; both are essentially ahistorical, but the latter far more dangerous.
Some reviewers claim the book is about Donald Trump as president. In fact, Trump is hardly mentioned and this book is not about Trump as president per se, but about principled actions each citizen might undertake to support democracy in the face of those in power who would seek to undermine or destroy it. If many of these calls to action are more pertinent in the age of Trumpism, the timing of the book’s publication may be no coincidence.
In his chapter on how nationalism is different to patriotism, the author explains that a nationalist fooled by an aspiring autocrat/tyrant ‘will say “it can’t happen here”, which is the first step to disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.’
Not very good value for how short it is, and the fact that you need to spend time researching yourself what the author talks about.
An example: "It is not patriotic to read a foreign policy speech written by someone on the payroll of a Russian energy company". The book won't tell you who it is.