Book Review: ‘Defeating the Dictators’ by Charles Dunst

A well-researched and explained book.

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Defeating the Dictators by Charles Dunst Book Cover
Defeating the Dictators by Charles Dunst Book Cover

Book Title: Defeating the Dictators: How Democracy Can Prevail in the Age of Strongman
Author: Charles Dunst
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Number of Pages: 448
ISBN: 978-1399704441
Date Published: Feb. 2, 2023
Price: INR 553

Book Review

Defeating the Dictators: How Democracy Can Prevail in the Age of Strongman,” by Charles Dunst, is a compelling and thought-provoking book that provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors that contribute to the rise and fall of authoritarian regimes, as well as successful democratization strategies and tactics. The book is divided into eight chapters, each examining a distinct element of the anti-dictatorship fight in depth. Dunst relies on various examples from around the globe throughout the book, including historical case studies, current political events, and personal interviews with influential people in democratic movements.

Dunst analyses the strategies and tactics that have effectively removed tyrants and the challenges and mistakes that have hampered progress in other instances based on extensive study and conversations with key figures. He contends that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for deposing dictators and those practical efforts necessitate a mix of domestic and foreign pressure, strategic nonviolence, and a dedication to developing strong democratic institutions.

Charles Dunst investigates the function of civic society in democratization. He contends that civil society organizations, such as labor unions, human rights organizations, and religious institutions, can be crucial in creating a robust and sustainable democratic movement. However, he admits that civil society is not a panacea and that its efficacy depends on various variables such as political circumstances, finances, and leadership.

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The book is well-researched, thoughtful, and ultimately hopeful at a time when it seems that democracy is in decline around the globe. It offers a blueprint for how democracies should fight against authoritarianism without becoming more authoritarian. The prescriptions in this book should serve as a wake-up call for democracies to improve their governance and beat autocracies at their own game.

Overall, “Defeating the Dictators” is an extraordinary, compelling, and pragmatic analysis of the authoritarianism versus democracy debate that builds its case by drawing on the vulnerabilities and strengths of our opponents. It is essential reading for anyone concerned about the triumph of global democracy.

The Review was first published in Storizen Magazine March 2023 issue.