Skip to main content

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

Festival of Ideas
Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Crowdcast  |  Pay What You Can

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. 

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

Booking Information

It’s important to us that ideas and debate are affordable to everyone. It’s also important that our commentators, artists, writers, poets and thinkers are paid. This is a Pay What You Can event. You are invited to choose your own contribution to the event. A free option is available. All proceeds go towards supporting our speakers and sustaining Bristol Ideas.

This is an online event on Crowdcast. Please note that Crowdcast works best in Chrome.

Booking a ticket for our Crowdcast event
Click the Book Ticket link to go to Crowdcast to register. Click the ‘Save my spot’ button to register. You will be prompted to enter your email address or social media login (Facebook, Twitter or Google). An email will be sent to confirm your registration, along with the option to add the event to your calendar.

Joining our Crowdcast event
Once you register you will have instant access to the event’s Crowdcast page, including the polls, chat, and Q&A. To return to the event page at any time, simply click the link in your confirmation or reminder email. The event will start automatically on its event page at the time advertised, and all you have to do is sit back and relax.

Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Find out how to update