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How Do We Deal With Strongmen Leaders? Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Festival of Ideas
Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Crowdcast  |  Pay What You Can

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Ruth Ben-Ghiat looks at how strongmen leaders rise and fall and the lessons for democracy.

Ours is the age of the strongman. Russia, India, Turkey and America are – or have recently – been ruled by men who, as they have risen to the top, have reshaped their countries around them, creating cults of personality which earn the loyalty of millions. And as they do so, they draw on a playbook of behaviour established by figures such as Benito Mussolini, Muammar Gaddafi and Adolf Hitler.

Ben-Ghiat draws on analysis of everything from gender and sexuality to diplomatic strategy to explain who these political figures are – and how they manipulate our own history, fears and desires in search of power at any cost. She also provides ideas about how they can be resisted, and democracy protected and extended. 

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Book cover of Strongmen by Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall is published by Profile Books. Buy a copy from Waterstones, our bookselling partners.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and a political commentator who has received Guggenheim, Fulbright and other fellowships. An expert on fascism, authoritarian rulers, Donald Trump and propaganda, she has written for or appeared on BBC World News, Washington Post, New York Times, Sky News, New Yorker and other media outlets. She is the author of Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall.

Image credit: Erin Baiano

Democracy and Freedom of Expression

This event is part of our 2021 series on democracy and freedom of expression. We’re committed to looking at solutions to the great challenges that face us – what individuals, leaders, mayors, councils, governments, cities, communities, nations and others can do to support, strengthen and extend democracy and freedom of expression.

The series includes: programmes on the future of democracy, May elections, the monarchy, constitutions, English devolution, House of Lords reform, votes at 16; work exploring freedom of expression through the year; and a focus on democracy and cities in Festival of the Future City (20-21 October).

Our project partners include English PEN, Prospect Magazine, the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath and the Observer. More events will be launched soon. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #FOIDemocracy and #CommonCurrency

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