Virtual Event: Ruth Ben-Ghiat
Mussolini to the Present
November 16, 2020
7:00 PM ET
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Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes RUTH BEN-GHIAT—professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and internationally renowned commentator on authoritarianism—for a discussion of her latest book, Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present.
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Ruth Ben-Ghiat is the expert on the "strongman" playbook employed by authoritarian demagogues from Mussolini to Putin—enabling her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America. In Strongmen, she lays bare the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years, and empowers us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.
For ours is the age of authoritarian rulers: self-proclaimed saviors of the nation who evade accountability while robbing their people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy. They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking by financial, sexual, and other predators.
They use masculinity as a symbol of strength and a political weapon. Taking what you want, and getting away with it, becomes proof of male authority. They use propaganda, corruption, and violence to stay in power.
Vladimir Putin and Mobutu Sese Seko’s kleptocracies, Augusto Pinochet’s torture sites, Benito Mussolini and Muammar Gaddafi’s systems of sexual exploitation, and Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump’s relentless misinformation: all show how authoritarian rule, far from ensuring stability, is marked by destructive chaos.
No other type of leader is so transparent about prioritizing self-interest over the public good. As one country after another has discovered, the strongman is at his worst when true guidance is most needed by his country.
Recounting the acts of solidarity and dignity that have undone strongmen over the past 100 years, Ben-Ghiat makes vividly clear that only by seeing the strongman for what he is―and by valuing one another as he is unable to do—can we stop him, now and in the future.
Praise for Strongmen
“With a steady gaze and an eye for the telling detail, Ruth Ben-Ghiat delivers a timely analysis of how a certain kind of charisma delivers political disaster—and some valuable hints about how it can be resisted, and the virtues we will need to rebuild democracy.” —Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny
“Ben-Ghiat's portrayal of fascist-era tyrants, murderous Cold War dictators, and would-be tyrants in our own day gives us a gripping and illuminating picture of how strongmen have deployed violence, seduction, and corruption. History, she shows, offers clear lessons not only about how these regimes are built, but also how they must be opposed, and how they end.” —Daniel Ziblatt, co-author of How Democracies Die
“Simultaneously intimate and sweeping in scope, Strongmen brings us in close to dictators and would-be dictators across decades and continents. We are left with a disturbing look in the mirror. Throughout, Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s clear prose rings with a rhythm and cadence that today’s nonfiction too often lacks.” —Sarah Chayes, author of On Corruption in America and Thieves of State
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