The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century

Moisés Naím. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-27920-0

Journalist Naím, a former executive director of the World Bank, revisits his 2013 book The End of Power in this trenchant if familiar look at the resurgence of autocratic regimes around the world. Contending that the technological and demographic changes that undermined the authority of established political and corporate institutions at the turn of the 21st century also unleashed a backlash among those “determined to gain and wield unlimited power,” Naím analyzes Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and other “aspiring autocrats” who came to power through “a reasonably democratic election” and rely on populism, political polarization, and misinformation “to maintain democratic appearances while furtively undermining democracy.” He attributes startling acts of violence and deceit to these leaders, accusing Putin of orchestrating a series of apartment bombings in Russia in 1999 and Rodrigo Duterte of sponsoring “death squads” in the Philippines, but also blames deindustrialization, corporate consolidation, and the anticompetitive practices of giant tech companies for fostering “status dissonance” and giving autocrats the tools to exploit it. Though Anne Applebaum, Timothy Snyder, and Yascha Mounk have covered similar ground, Naím delivers a cogent and accessible overview of the new authoritarianism. Readers will agree that the matter is of urgent concern. (Feb.)