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How to be a dictator - Frank Diktter

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How to be a dictator - the cult of personality in the twentieth century
Frank Diktter
Paperback / softback
UK Publication Date

'Brilliant' NEW STATESMAN, BOOKS OF THE YEAR'Enlightening and a good read' SPECTATOR'Moving and perceptive' NEW STATESMANMussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Ceausescu, Mengistu of Ethiopia and Duvalier of Haiti. No dictator can rule through fear and violence alone. Naked power can be grabbed and held temporarily, but it never suffices in the long term. A tyrant who can compel his own people to acclaim him will last longer. The paradox of the modern dictator is that he must create the illusion of popular support. Throughout the twentieth century, hundreds of millions of people were condemned to enthusiasm, obliged to hail their leaders even as they were herded down the road to serfdom.
In How to Be a Dictator, Frank Diktter returns to eight of the most chillingly effective personality cults of the twentieth century. From carefully choreographed parades to the deliberate cultivation of a shroud of mystery through iron censorship, these dictators ceaselessly worked on their own image and encouraged the population at large to glorify them. At a time when democracy is in retreat, are we seeing a revival of the same techniques among some of today's world leaders? This timely study, told with great narrative verve, examines how a cult takes hold, grows, and sustains itself. It places the cult of personality where it belongs, at the very heart of tyranny.

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Frank Diktter is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He has pioneered the use of archival sources and published a dozen books that have changed the way historians view China, from the classic The Discourse of Race in Modern China (1992) to his last book entitled The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, 1962-1976 (2016). His new book, Dictators and their Cult of Personality, is due for publication in September 2019. Frank Diktter is married and lives in Hong Kong.

Essential reading … The standalone portraits of his eight dictators are riveting
Evening Standard, 'Book of the Week' - Justin Marozzi

How to be a dictator? Ruthlessness matters a lot more than talent, but luck most of all. That is the upshot of Frank Diktter's elegant and readable study of the cult of personality in the 20th century … [Diktter's] penmanship and eye for anecdote brings [the dictators] to life
The Times

A brilliant study of twentieth-century dictatorship … The book's psychological insight is devastating, the stories are eye-popping Essential reading for any student of political manipulation, as a study of man's inhumanity to man, it's almost unbearably moving
New Statesman, Books of the Year - Sue Prideaux

A disturbing emblem of our times
Evening Standard, 'Best Books to Take on Holiday' - Justin Marozzi

A whistlestop tour of some of the most infamous leaders of the 20th century … What Diktter does so well is to find the pathological and ideological connections among leaders who "teetered between hubris and paranoia"

Frank Diktter provides a timely reminder of just how destructive toxic insecurity, and its corollary, pathological narcissism, can become … In terms of the dynamics of narcissistic authoritarianism, there is much in How to Be a Dictator that is of critical contemporary relevance … History only makes sense if we understand the psychological pathology that underlies it, and our own propensity for partaking in such pathology. We need a clear-eyed understanding of history as a recurring series of monumental follies, led by cretins who duped or forced millions of us into humiliating childish submission. Only then can we hope to avoid the repetition. Diktter is in the vanguard of historians opening our eyes to this fundamental truth
Irish Times

Enlightening and a good read

A heroic piece of research … Devastating in every sense of the word
Economist - Praise for 'Mao's Great Famine'

Ground-breaking … Unsparing in its detail, relentless in its research, unforgiving in its judgements … Diktter's achievement in this book is remarkable
Sunday Times - Praise for 'The Tragedy of Liberation'

Worryingly close to home … Diktter has put together sharp portraits of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il-sung, Duvalier, Ceausescu and Mengistu
Times Higher Education

How to Be a Dictator is a timely book and enjoyable to read. It is strangely comforting to be reminded that many of the dictators in Diktter's book came to an ignominious end. But that is no excuse for underestimating the need to protect democracy today
Financial Times

Definitive and harrowing
Daily Mail - praise for 'The Cultural Revolution', Book of the Week

Diktter never allows his intense account to degenerate into melodrama Fascinating
Daily Telegraph - praise for 'The Cultural Revolution'

Magnificent ... The author gives full acknowledgement to memoirs and scholarly works but it is his own archival research, allied to a piercing critique, that lifts the book to a higher level. He has mastered the details so well that with the most sparing use of description he weaves a vivid tapestry of China at the time …Brilliant
Sunday Times - praise for 'The Cultural Revolution'

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Keyword Index
Dictatorship - History - 20th century.|Dictators - History - 20th century.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages
xvi, 274 , 16 unnumbered of plates

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