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In this riveting portrait of authoritarianism in peril, acclaimed journalist William Dobson takes us inside the relentless battle between dictators and the people challenging their rule. We are witnessing an incredible moment in the war between dictators and democracy—waves of protests are sweeping Syria and Yemen, and despots have fallen in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. But t In this riveting portrait of authoritarianism in peril, acclaimed journalist William Dobson takes us inside the relentless battle between dictators and the people challenging their rule. We are witnessing an incredible moment in the war between dictators and democracy—waves of protests are sweeping Syria and Yemen, and despots have fallen in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. But the Arab Spring is only the latest front in a worldwide battle between freedom and repression, a battle that also rages in a dozen other countries from Venezuela to China, Russia to Malaysia. It is a struggle that, until recently, dictators have been winning hands-down. The reason is that today’s authoritarian regimes are nothing like the frozen-in-time government of North Korea. They are ever-morphing, technologically savvy, and internationally connected, and they have replaced more brutal forms of intimidation with seemingly “free” elections and talk of human rights. Facing off against modern dictators is an unlikely army of democracy advocates—students, bloggers, environmentalists, lawyers, activists, and millionaires—who are growing increasingly savvy themselves. The result is a global game of cat-and-mouse, where the future of freedom hangs in the balance. Dobson takes us behind the scenes in both camps, and reveals how each side is honing its strategies for the war that will define our age.


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In this riveting portrait of authoritarianism in peril, acclaimed journalist William Dobson takes us inside the relentless battle between dictators and the people challenging their rule. We are witnessing an incredible moment in the war between dictators and democracy—waves of protests are sweeping Syria and Yemen, and despots have fallen in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. But t In this riveting portrait of authoritarianism in peril, acclaimed journalist William Dobson takes us inside the relentless battle between dictators and the people challenging their rule. We are witnessing an incredible moment in the war between dictators and democracy—waves of protests are sweeping Syria and Yemen, and despots have fallen in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. But the Arab Spring is only the latest front in a worldwide battle between freedom and repression, a battle that also rages in a dozen other countries from Venezuela to China, Russia to Malaysia. It is a struggle that, until recently, dictators have been winning hands-down. The reason is that today’s authoritarian regimes are nothing like the frozen-in-time government of North Korea. They are ever-morphing, technologically savvy, and internationally connected, and they have replaced more brutal forms of intimidation with seemingly “free” elections and talk of human rights. Facing off against modern dictators is an unlikely army of democracy advocates—students, bloggers, environmentalists, lawyers, activists, and millionaires—who are growing increasingly savvy themselves. The result is a global game of cat-and-mouse, where the future of freedom hangs in the balance. Dobson takes us behind the scenes in both camps, and reveals how each side is honing its strategies for the war that will define our age.

30 review for The Dictator's Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Owlseyes

    Some days ago many gathered in Oslo's Freedom Forum 2014 to address this issue of Dictatorship*. At least 30 dictatorships have been exposed; Will Dobson was there too. So were people who would complain about situations in Mexico, China, Turkey, and Russia….; relevant to the latter nation: two members of the Pussy Riot band, who had been imprisoned in Siberia for some time; they spoke about the experience in jail and the charges they’ve been subject to. Former champion chess player Kasparov did Some days ago many gathered in Oslo's Freedom Forum 2014 to address this issue of Dictatorship*. At least 30 dictatorships have been exposed; Will Dobson was there too. So were people who would complain about situations in Mexico, China, Turkey, and Russia….; relevant to the latter nation: two members of the Pussy Riot band, who had been imprisoned in Siberia for some time; they spoke about the experience in jail and the charges they’ve been subject to. Former champion chess player Kasparov did show up to elaborate more on his well-developed thinking about “Russia’s a dictatorship”. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was there too. But, back to Dobson. He made a short presentation of his book’s content about which I talk next. 1-He spent 3 years travelling throughout modern-day dictatorships; in countries such as: Malaysia, Russia, Egypt, Venezuela, China (…). 2-Broadly speaking he summarized his experience, dividing people he was with in two groups: (a) the regime people, perpetuating it, like: political advisors, technocrats, the military…the cronies; (b) those trouble-makers who want to topple the regime; they’re the students, academicians, the environmentalists, the bloggers…; these are, according to Dobson, “no blind romantics” ,but activists, “battle-scarred”; doing their work with intelligence , skill and care. They’re “accomplished strategists” from “all walks of life”; “savvy political analysts, “incredible propagandists”. In my opinion this division is methodologically too simplified; I can recall in Portugal (1974) the military toppling the fascist regime of Salazar; or recently the military takeover in Thailand, just to name a few cases. 3-Dictators don’t fear the USA, the UN, the international community,…but their own people. 4-Dobson is optimistic regarding the future. [Hmmm, the Arab Spring wasn’t that successful] 5-He told an interesting kind of episode (almost a joke).He had been some time in Egypt (just when the Arab Spring was unfolding) and now he was with Chinese [communist] officials. One of the questions at stake was: about the possibility of something similar to happen in China. The officials were very prepared and advanced reasons why that wouldn’t happen in China: Mubarak was unprepared…we’re prospering…and we’re AN ANCIENT CIVILIZATION; Dobson replied: what about Egypt’s?!. That was surely a blow for the official; the ancient-argument (their “talking-points”) could not be used; … No more as excuse? It came to my mind two other cases: North Korea (a dictatorship) and Tibet (under a dictatorship). *http://new.livestream.com/accounts/59...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    I really enjoyed this book! Of course, part of what was enjoyable was my husband misunderstanding the title and worrying that I've been studying a "Dictator's Handbook" - he has several times expressed hopes for a benevolent dictatorship. I have been wanting to understand how authoritarian governments form, how they manage to stay in control despite severe criticism and lack of civilian support and how and why they sometimes end. I have been especially interested since the Arab Spring. This book I really enjoyed this book! Of course, part of what was enjoyable was my husband misunderstanding the title and worrying that I've been studying a "Dictator's Handbook" - he has several times expressed hopes for a benevolent dictatorship. I have been wanting to understand how authoritarian governments form, how they manage to stay in control despite severe criticism and lack of civilian support and how and why they sometimes end. I have been especially interested since the Arab Spring. This book addresses those questions using the example of Venezuela, China and Egypt. It also touches on events in Serbia, Malaysia, Romania, Burma, and the Ukraine - among others. It is well written by a well-traveled journalist with a sufficient amount of flare and style to make it interesting. Lots of good anecdotes, interviews, and experiences to make it rather fast-paced. I was impressed with the organization of the book. Also, he managed to keep the suspense in storytelling even if I already knew the outcome of many of the political events. If you are interested in how people like Chavez or Mubarak became such powerful and terrifying figures and how in the hell they keep/kept their power for so long - check this out. Or if you are ready to start your own non-violent overthrow of a autocrat ... this book is a fine starting place (although the techniques don't seem to work on a autocrat of 3 yrs old).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris Aylott

    A surprisingly optimistic book. Dobson shows how today's autocrats are taking a more sophisticated approach to repression, targeting the troublemakers and encouraging apathy among everyone else. Fake opposition, demagoguery, and even legitimate economic progress all have their place when you want to keep your regime in power. But Dobson also spends a lot of time with the troublemakers who are out to bring these regimes down, and they are an impressive bunch. The successful resistors understand t A surprisingly optimistic book. Dobson shows how today's autocrats are taking a more sophisticated approach to repression, targeting the troublemakers and encouraging apathy among everyone else. Fake opposition, demagoguery, and even legitimate economic progress all have their place when you want to keep your regime in power. But Dobson also spends a lot of time with the troublemakers who are out to bring these regimes down, and they are an impressive bunch. The successful resistors understand the corollary of "War is politics by other other means" and approach politics as a nonviolent military operation. There are a lot of hard fights ahead, and Dobson's reporting ended before events in nations like Egypt reminded us that getting rid of a dictator is a lot easier than staying free afterwards. But in the long run, my money is on the resistors. The next question is: what can we learn from them that we can use against the plutocrats that have hijacked this country?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo

    An excellent book for learning about how authoritarian governments work in the XXI century.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ionut

    "The Dictator's Learning Curve" is a thoroughly researched book that dissects modern day dictators and repressive states. Modern day dictators have adapted their techniques to the modern day. Instead of force, they are repressive in more insidious ways, they use laws for example to hinder the activity of opposing parties or NGOs (they might routinely send inspections for example), they are tech-savvy so they use the Internet to their advantage. Dissidents have adapted their methods as well and th "The Dictator's Learning Curve" is a thoroughly researched book that dissects modern day dictators and repressive states. Modern day dictators have adapted their techniques to the modern day. Instead of force, they are repressive in more insidious ways, they use laws for example to hinder the activity of opposing parties or NGOs (they might routinely send inspections for example), they are tech-savvy so they use the Internet to their advantage. Dissidents have adapted their methods as well and this book provides an overview of nonviolent protest movements across the world. It examines protest movements in Egypt, Burma, China, Russia, Venezuela. What is surprising is how these movements learn from each other and collaborate. Dobson actually attended CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) workshops where members of the Otpor! Serbian movement that ousted Slobodan Milošević introduce nonviolent strategies to activists across the whole world. They in turn adapt them to the settings in their countries. There are several passages that I enjoyed in this book. The dedication of Venezuelan students, one of the student leaders telling his mother "I don't think I'm coming home today, mom" being set on defending election results against Hugh Chavez's attempts to mess with referendum results. Or the retired US colonel Helvey explaining how one should construct nonviolent protest strategies "Life is nothing more than pattern analysis. Planning involves the habit of pattern analysis, and every living thing lives by a pattern. We need to know what that pattern is so that when it changes, the first question we ask is, Why?".

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Another non-fiction book that was wonderfully informative but a slog to get through. Best read a chapter at a time, as each chapter tackles a different subject and read like lengthy magazine articles. Still, the ideas here about how the modern authoritarian holds onto power and how the modern protester works to topple him illuminated corners of the recent waves of protests that I knew little about. Great way to learn more about the current regimes in Venezuela, China, and Russia, and the continu Another non-fiction book that was wonderfully informative but a slog to get through. Best read a chapter at a time, as each chapter tackles a different subject and read like lengthy magazine articles. Still, the ideas here about how the modern authoritarian holds onto power and how the modern protester works to topple him illuminated corners of the recent waves of protests that I knew little about. Great way to learn more about the current regimes in Venezuela, China, and Russia, and the continued struggle in Egypt, given that your information level is similar to my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pak Sun Ng

    "...the people who challenge them are moving up their own learning curve, too. From one authoritarian capital to the next, one truth is increasingly inescapable: The people actually matter. For a dictator, there is nothing more terrifying." - p.300, Epilogue. This makes the central theme of the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    wally

    finished this one this morning, 29th of may 2017. good read. i liked it. 3-stars. enlightening, to know that there exists such a thing as...what? dobson doesn't provide it a name, like "terrorist-training" whatever. what do they call it, "site"....center? something. brings to mind that biography i read earlier this year, ho chi minh, and a school he attended in...moscow, i think it was. thought at the time, again, to the notion of a "terrorist-training center". center? always though, sheesh, doe finished this one this morning, 29th of may 2017. good read. i liked it. 3-stars. enlightening, to know that there exists such a thing as...what? dobson doesn't provide it a name, like "terrorist-training" whatever. what do they call it, "site"....center? something. brings to mind that biography i read earlier this year, ho chi minh, and a school he attended in...moscow, i think it was. thought at the time, again, to the notion of a "terrorist-training center". center? always though, sheesh, doesn't a basement work, as well? a room with a view? does one need an entire nation-state for such a task. anyway, ho chi went to communist revolution school in moscow and the reader got the sense that others, from other areas of the world, attended as well. and we've been hearing about "terrorist training centers" for years now. ho chi minh in moscow, all of the cult followers marching off to "jihad" in other places, and herein, various places and serbian veterans of the revolution there at home, trainers now. there's an acronym associated with some of it, canvas. non-violent overthrow regime schools, too. what a concept. sounds like it works. with all the learning curves associated with it...works in some areas. nothing here about ukraine...very little, it anything. 'cause? putin. some really interesting information herein about venezuela, russia, egypt, china. really interesting, the way dictators co-op "democratic" trends, ideas, means, whatnot, to their own ends. the "public chamber" in russia...a variation in china. china comes up with these phrases, "speak bitterness" during mao's time...a variation of that recently. "anonymous complaints"? was that it? okay, here it is, "accusation centers" where people can file anonymous complaints. talk with some chinese here, people i've worked for. health care mostly. and sure, every culture is the fabled "ethnocentric" or it wouldn't survive, right. so there's that. dobson talks with one guy from china herein...there's this idea expressed, responsibility...versus what...accountability was it? the chinese guy is all gun-ho, the chinese system is better. then dobson chronicles reality. covers a number of changes that have happened in china since it all came down the pike. jasmine. good read. i liked it. 3 stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Reza Amiri Praramadhan

    Like other jobs, being a dictator is a job that meets constant challenges as the time progresses. The ever-changing world situations, the increasing political awareness of the people, and the advent of technologies, especially internet, pose a formidable obstacle for dictators around the world, forcing them to keep up their game. Be it by intimidating and silencing political opponents, suppressing dissents, “managing” their version of democracy, they found out that after such a long time, their Like other jobs, being a dictator is a job that meets constant challenges as the time progresses. The ever-changing world situations, the increasing political awareness of the people, and the advent of technologies, especially internet, pose a formidable obstacle for dictators around the world, forcing them to keep up their game. Be it by intimidating and silencing political opponents, suppressing dissents, “managing” their version of democracy, they found out that after such a long time, their own preferred tactics became more untenable. Drawing examples from dictatorships around the world, especially Russia, China, Egypt and Venezuela, this book discusses how dictators maintain their iron grip on power, and how the democratic oppositions fight them, with one instance succeeded in toppling the dictator (in Egypt). An insightful reading, I am particularly interested in how a group of former founders of democratic movement in Serbia are exporting their democratic revolutions in kind of classes and courses like in campus.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kamil Salamah

    A very informative book. It shows how governments in power will go to any extreme to secure their longevity. Some are agile and respond quickly to enforce any processes to legitimize their existence, while others get caught off guard having to take sudden disastrous methods to keep their grip firm; having to adjust at a later stage to pretend "democratic inclusion". The author takes the reader thru an excellent list of historical governmental examples, globally, to educate us of the many live ex A very informative book. It shows how governments in power will go to any extreme to secure their longevity. Some are agile and respond quickly to enforce any processes to legitimize their existence, while others get caught off guard having to take sudden disastrous methods to keep their grip firm; having to adjust at a later stage to pretend "democratic inclusion". The author takes the reader thru an excellent list of historical governmental examples, globally, to educate us of the many live examples from East to West. Although some movements have succeeded in forcing change others have not and were brutally crushed. He rightfully concludes, undemocratic systems, become heavily burdened by very expensive systems draining their economy to remain in power; thus it is best to gain proper legitimacy thru "inclusion" to be successful to ensure fairness and harmony: the mark of strong productive, innovative societies.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Howard

    Uneven, rambling look at the battle between dictatorships around the world and their domestic opponents. Lots of different stories that move back and forth between nations, and don't seem to be organized very well into topic areas. Some of these stories are interesting, others aren't. In addition, although only eight years old, the book is now been made out-of-date by events since its publication.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    I started this 2012 book thinking I’d learn a little poli sci. Instead I found myself shocked by how closely the current American president hews to the behavior of dictators around the world. I didn’t expect the similarities, but they are undeniably there. Be that as it may, engaged citizens can also do something about it. Even during a pandemic. Also surprising was how quickly the global political landscape has changed since the book was written.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Maulucci

    Now this was an interesting book. Author took turns focusing on different despotic regimes in the current world. Traveled to those places and talked to the movers and shakers. This kind of stuff should be part of social studies curriculum in the public schools. Yeah, right...then the communists wouldn't be able to brainwash us.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fran Caparrelli

    A very worthwhile read although a bit discouraging. The book is copyrighted in 2012 and so much has changed since then but the author's insight into the dictator's of past and present day is illuminating.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    Williams does a good analysis of past uprisings of dictatorships showing why some are successful in over throwing asshats vs the ones that fail.

  16. 5 out of 5

    JS Found

    This thrilling book has a simple but brilliant premise: charting the battles between dictators and democrats in oppressive countries. Dictators no longer only use primitive brute force to control their people and to stay in power. They use democratic systems--just the ones they need--and laws--made favorable to them by them--to keep alive their dirty business. They manipulate. They use subtle strategy. Regulations. The media. The examples of other authoritarian countries going through revolution This thrilling book has a simple but brilliant premise: charting the battles between dictators and democrats in oppressive countries. Dictators no longer only use primitive brute force to control their people and to stay in power. They use democratic systems--just the ones they need--and laws--made favorable to them by them--to keep alive their dirty business. They manipulate. They use subtle strategy. Regulations. The media. The examples of other authoritarian countries going through revolutions. But, as they learn, so do their enemies--the freedom fighters and activists who want their nation to be free. It's no longer war and protests that define the battle for liberty in these countries; it's nuanced thinking; it's three dimensional chess. Dobson focuses on a handful of regimes--China, Egypt, Venezuela, Russia--where there's always a constant tension between autocratic rule and democratic leanings. He recounts how the dictators in those countries came to power and how they consolidated it. He talks to government officials and official propagandists. He also talks to opposition leaders, the old guard, and student activists, the new guard. He sits in on freedom organizations as they plan strategy. (There are a few who set up workshops for activists from any country interested in how to do an effective nonviolent democratic movement.) This is a wonderful book of boots-on-the-ground reporting. Dobson visited many places, racking up over 93,000 miles for the book. The best bits are the interviews with the activists, and advice on how to stage a successful revolution. Be nonviolent. Don't focus on hating the regime because hate doesn't attract people. Have a lot of patience. Use humor to win over people and show the absurdity of the regime. Try to create what are known as "conflict dilemmas" for the government. Be inclusive. Have a leadership that is not a democracy. And so on. What the dictator does to hold onto power: threats and manipulations; using social media technology to create an enemies list of people who can be cowed into voting the way the regime wants; buyouts of critical media like radio and TV stations; formulating new laws that make it hard for people to protest, NGOs and human rights organizations to operate; creating sham opposition parties and student protest groups that really are for the regime; and of course, using violence. The activist must use strategy and perseverance. She's in this for the long haul. Because, as this book written during and after the Arab Spring shows, a democratic country is possible. It can be done. Featuring great introductions to freedom fighters and organizations, as well as a good bibliography of revolution manuals and their histories.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Serwach

    "Between 1900 and 2006 more than 50 percent of nonviolent movements succeeded, compared with roughly 25 percent of violent insurgencies. When activists look squarely at the the choice of toppling dictators with bullets or ballots , they see a greater chance for success by nonviolent means.'' - William J. Dobson, The Dictator's Learning Curve. In 1974, the world had just 41 democracies. By 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed, the world had 76 democracies. By 2005, the number of democracies w "Between 1900 and 2006 more than 50 percent of nonviolent movements succeeded, compared with roughly 25 percent of violent insurgencies. When activists look squarely at the the choice of toppling dictators with bullets or ballots , they see a greater chance for success by nonviolent means.'' - William J. Dobson, The Dictator's Learning Curve. In 1974, the world had just 41 democracies. By 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed, the world had 76 democracies. By 2005, the number of democracies worldwide was triple what it was in 1974. But by 2010, authoritarian regimes were figuring out ways to come back and adapt to a changing world where dictators can no longer control communications channels as easily as they could in the 20th century. William Dobson does a stellar job comparing the strategies of authoritarian regimes in Russia, China, Venezuela and Egypt, looking at the authoritarians and their opponents and how both have adapted to each other in the fight for power. Today's dictators are far more sophisticated in the way they maintain power. As are their opponents, who have learned to use tools from humor to Social Media to advocate the change they seek. Dobson quotes a Russian opposition leader explaining the difference between communism and Putinism: "Putinism looks smarter, because Putinism comes just for your political rights but does not touch your personal freedom. You can travel, you can emigrate if you want, you can read the Internet. What is strictly forbidden is to use TV. Television is under control because TV is the most powerful resource for ideology and the propaganda machine. Communists blocked personal freedom plus political freedom. That's why communism looks much more stupid than Putinism.'' Both sides are more sophisticated, finding ways to use political and legal tools as well as the power of persuasion, he explains. An opponent of Hugo Chavez explains: "If you're going to fight Mike Tyson, you're not going to box against him, because even though he is crazy, he's going to kill you. But if you can challenge him to a game of chess, you might have a chance to defeat Mike Tyson. We're not going to fight (Chavez's military or police), because they have guns and weapons; they'd kill us. But if we can take them away from their game and put them in our game, a game that we control, then we can defeat them. Yes, it's possible that Mike Tyson will get angry after you beat him in chess and hit you. But if he does that, you're going to have the support of the population. If Mike Tyson hits you in a boxing match, everybody says you deserve it. After all, you went into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson.''

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ishmael Seaward

    Just started. Putin's Russia is being described. I already knew that the country is a kleptocracy. Here is the underlying reason, and how it is being pulled off. It also occurs to me that Putin and his cronies may well be a sociopath. The author documents fairly clearly how the regime wants to be viewed as a nation of laws, violates them, then how the activists can use those very laws to expose the regime for what it is. What is really interesting is how Putin set up an agency to collect and mea Just started. Putin's Russia is being described. I already knew that the country is a kleptocracy. Here is the underlying reason, and how it is being pulled off. It also occurs to me that Putin and his cronies may well be a sociopath. The author documents fairly clearly how the regime wants to be viewed as a nation of laws, violates them, then how the activists can use those very laws to expose the regime for what it is. What is really interesting is how Putin set up an agency to collect and measure the attitudes of the public, after he turned the parliament into a rubber stamp. It is also worth noting that capital is steadily leaving the country; investors are voting with their money. The chapter called Enemies of the State was equally fascinating, especially the part where Yevgenia forced the state to abandon plans for a highway that would have destroyed a historic patch of woods. Most of the money for the highway was coming from foreign banks; Yevgenia and her fellow activists embarrassed the banks into withdrawing the money. As a consequence, her activist group has been targeted with beatings, official harassment, and threats to her daughters. Such is Putin's Russia.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    In the old days, dictators could count on a media blackout, control of the police and army and other traditional accessories to shield them from overthrow. Lively and innovative movements in Serbia and other post-1989 revolutions changed the calculations of control, along with camera phones, the internet, more aggressive lobbying of outside powers and international scrutiny. However, dictators aren't stupid. they're highly motivated to stay in power, and they've been learning quickly how to coun In the old days, dictators could count on a media blackout, control of the police and army and other traditional accessories to shield them from overthrow. Lively and innovative movements in Serbia and other post-1989 revolutions changed the calculations of control, along with camera phones, the internet, more aggressive lobbying of outside powers and international scrutiny. However, dictators aren't stupid. they're highly motivated to stay in power, and they've been learning quickly how to counter many formerly effective tactics by burying opposition in worthless faux parties, dumping them in Byzantine legal systems, carefully disenfranchising or removing their citizenship (it used to be, you had to keep dissidents IN, now it is best to let them leave) or bringing in hired goons who can't be suborned by ties of religion or ethnicity. Dobson highlights the work of Otpor and Gene Sharp, but cautions that long-term success requires being as quick to adjust as the dictators, and that quick victories via Facebook sputter out without harder, long-term organization and work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Lamb

    Terrific book. An interesting read on the development of dictatorships and the ever changing landscape due to the internet etc which have evolved how dictatorships are required to operate. The book dives into some interesting countries such as Venezuela, Egypt, China and Russia using a mix of sources from first person accounts and historic events. The only thing really holding this book back is its analyse of current events which have not has the opportunity to have files released over time afte Terrific book. An interesting read on the development of dictatorships and the ever changing landscape due to the internet etc which have evolved how dictatorships are required to operate. The book dives into some interesting countries such as Venezuela, Egypt, China and Russia using a mix of sources from first person accounts and historic events. The only thing really holding this book back is its analyse of current events which have not has the opportunity to have files released over time after the dictatorships fall. However this is what makes the book interesting as you constantly attempt to fill in the missing gaps and question how this is still going on in today's society. Even the tactics and legislative loopholes which are used are fascinating. For anyone who enjoys dictatorships, politics and sociology, this book is a fresh change to read something touching topics which are mostly in the newspaper. This book will however age quite quickly due to these flaws. Enjoy

  21. 5 out of 5

    John LoGiudice

    If you want to understand what is going on currently in Syria, what happened in Libya and what is currently going on less violent states like Russia and China, I recommend this wonderful, if disturbing book by William J. Dobson. Dobson's insights into the Communication Age and its effects on despots is nothing short of remarkable. Ignore Fox News,the CBC, MSNBC, the BBC and other biased news media until you read this book, and then go back and watch them and you will see a dramatic difference in If you want to understand what is going on currently in Syria, what happened in Libya and what is currently going on less violent states like Russia and China, I recommend this wonderful, if disturbing book by William J. Dobson. Dobson's insights into the Communication Age and its effects on despots is nothing short of remarkable. Ignore Fox News,the CBC, MSNBC, the BBC and other biased news media until you read this book, and then go back and watch them and you will see a dramatic difference in how you view the world in the 21st century.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    Cleverly written and very inspiring. I'm from a country where democracy is immature but people are generally apathetic to the flaws running in our administrative, judicial, and legislative branches. I've seen so many authoritarian techniques described in this book implemented in Taiwan by the ruling party. In the end, if you think having elections is what democracy means, you're naive and delusional. Sadly, that's just what most of my people's belief. The rest of us can only hope for the best be Cleverly written and very inspiring. I'm from a country where democracy is immature but people are generally apathetic to the flaws running in our administrative, judicial, and legislative branches. I've seen so many authoritarian techniques described in this book implemented in Taiwan by the ruling party. In the end, if you think having elections is what democracy means, you're naive and delusional. Sadly, that's just what most of my people's belief. The rest of us can only hope for the best before the ruling party hand this small island to China.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Henning

    The Dictator's Learning Curve was surprisingly fun to read. William Dobson reviewed most of the major repressive regimes in the world and the work of the many groups seeking greater freedom. I enjoyed the little history lesson, learning about the groups in these countries trying desperately to hold onto power in the face of the human need for freedom. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand more about the world and the thankfully decreasing number of autocratic regimes.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nada

    Ever wonder how dictators are able to stay in power? Or how and why people finally revolt? This is the book to read. I like that the book was set up by different topics rather than by country. You were really able to see the similarities between the oppressive regimes and how protestors and activists are able to combat against their oppressions and fight for that end goal - a government that works for its people instead of against it

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt Stokes

    Very informative book claims to be a look at how modern-day dictators use sophisticated technology to control the public, but it's actually more about how protesters in authoritarian countries get results. Very interesting, but I wish there had been more. Still, I highly encourage you to read it; it's very short and it'll get you thinking.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tamama Mimi

    The reason is that today’s authoritarian regimes are nothing like the frozen-in-time government of North Korea. They are ever-morphing, technologically savvy, and internationally connected, and they have replaced more brutal forms of intimidation with seemingly “free” elections and talk of human rights.

  27. 4 out of 5

    corina

    I adored it. I had this constant fear that it was gonna start getting really boring? That it was going to start sounding more and more like a dry history textbook? My fear went unfounded, thank god. It was interesting start to finish. It just took me so long to read because I literally had no fucking time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pål Bakka

    As a political scientist and librarian the progresive optimism of The Library of Congress classifiers never cease to amaze me. A book on the persistence of authoritarianism is classed as a book on democracy, in 321.8. The subject matter of the book places it squarely in 321.9.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julian Haigh

    Nice collection of stories as examples of varying degrees of autocratic rule focusing on civil society responses. This would be a great book to get some background and context to preface Gene Sharps more practical manual, "From Dictatorship to Democracy".

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gib

    This is an enjoyable and engaging read that provides a good overview of recent developments in peaceful revolution. It spends a bit of time on many of the major current dictatorships and talks about how activists are pushing back against them. Good but fails to galvanize you.

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