Cover image for On tyranny : twenty lessons from the twentieth century
Title:
On tyranny : twenty lessons from the twentieth century
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tim Duggan Books, [2017]
ISBN:
9780804190114
Physical Description:
126 pages ; 16 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Do not obey in advance -- Defend institutions -- Beware the one-party state -- Take responsibility for the face of the world -- Remember professional ethics -- Be wary of paramilitaries -- Be reflective if you must be armed -- Stand out -- Be kind to our language -- Believe in truth -- Investigate -- Make eye contact and small talk -- Practice corporeal politics -- Establish a private life -- Contribute to good causes -- Learn from peers in other countries -- Listen for dangerous words -- Be calm when the unthinkable arrives -- Be a patriot -- Be as courageous as you can.
Abstract:
In previous books, Holocaust historian Timothy Snyder dissected the events and values that enabled the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the execution of their catastrophic policies. With Twenty Lessons, Snyder draws from the darkest hours of the twentieth century to provide hope for the twenty-first. As he writes, "Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism and communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience."
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Book 321.9 SNY 1 .PUBLIC. Softcover
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Book 321.9 SNYDER 1 .SOURCE. BAKER AND TAYLOR
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Book JC495.S55 2017 1
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Prescott Public Library1Received on 4/27/17
Cottonwood Public Library1Received on 10/4/17
Prescott Valley Public Library1Received on 4/25/18
Dewey-Humboldt Town Library1Received on 11/14/17

Summary

Summary

#1 New York Times Bestseller

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.


Reviews 2

Kirkus Review

"Stand out." "Believe in truth." "Be calm when the unthinkable arrives." A historian offers a set of 20 prescriptions for how to live under a dictatorship.If we read our history properly, we have plenty of examples of how people have held up under tyranny, some resisting, some complying, some collaborating. In this slim book, a sort of operating manual for navigating the new authoritarianism that was first born as a set of social media memes after the recent presidential election in the United States, Snyder (History/Yale Univ.; Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, 2015, etc.) finds many of those examples in Greek and Roman history but many more in the totalitarian history of the 20th century. Both fascism and communism, he warns, were "responses to globalization" and to rising inequality. "We might be tempted to think that our democratic heritage automatically protects us from such threats," he writes, adding, "this is a misguided reflex." Snyder begins his series of provocations with the warning, "do not obey in advance"i.e., yield no ground to self-censorship and self-policing, to what he calls "anticipatory obedience." He moves on immediately from the individual to the macro level, urging his readers to understand that it is institutions such as the courts and the free press that preserve democratic mores against the ways of authoritarian rulers, would-be or real; it is no accident that orders of noncompliance against recent federal immigration mandates have come from a judiciary committed to defending the Constitution. Throughout, Snyder carefully weighs his rules for radicals against historical benchmarks. Given that the current administration seems less inclined to Hitlerian efficiency than to Ruritanian chaos and Mussolinian posturing, thankfully, there is some reason to think that the direst of Snyder's warnings may be fodder for a worst-case scenario rather than daily life. Those committed to resistance will want to study up on them all the same. Timely and essential, if, one hopes, a bit more than the present situation requires. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


New York Review of Books Review

The months after Donald Trump was elected president have been boom times for scholars of authoritarianism. Masha Gessen wrote a widely circulated essay on the New York Review of Books website entitled "Autocracy: Rules for Survival." In that vein, Snyder offers practical advice to #TheResistance in "On Tyranny," a brief book that started life as a Facebook post. Unlike public intellectuals who casually toss around the word "fascist" to describe a disappointing restaurant salad, Snyder knows this subject cold. He is a Yale University historian who has written at length on fascism, Communism and the Holocaust. That gives "On Tyranny" a particular urgency. It is littered with vignettes of how Germans in the 1930s aided and abetted Hitler's rise to power. It is impossible to read aphorisms like "posttruth is pre-fascism" and not feel a small chill about the current state of the Republic. Snyder warns, "Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or Communism in the 20th century." He offers political advice ranging from straightforward ("Defend institutions") to insightful ("Be calm when the unthinkable arrives"). For such a small book, Snyder invests "On Tyranny" with considerable heft. At times, though, "On Tyranny" veers toward overwrought. Trump's brand of populist nationalism may be illiberal, but it is also not very popular. Since his inauguration, a critical free press, independent judiciary, patriotic Civil Service and robust social movements have placed significant constraints on Trump's actions. When Snyder intimates that 2016 might be the last free election in the United States for a while, one wonders if the book will become self-defeating because of its hyperbole. Of course, just as I was pondering whether "On Tyranny" exaggerates, Trump tweeted that the press is the enemy of the American people. That sounds awfully pre-fascist to me. So approach this short book the same way you would a medical pamphlet warning about an infectious disease. Read it carefully and be on the lookout for symptoms.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do. Anticipatory obedience is a political tragedy. Perhaps rulers did not initially know that citizens were willing to compromise this value or that principle. Perhaps a new regime did not at first have the direct means of influencing citizens one way or another. After the German elections of 1932, which brought Nazis into government, or the Czechoslovak elections of 1946, where communists were victorious, the next crucial step was anticipatory obedience. Because enough people in both cases voluntarily extended their services to the new leaders, Nazis and communists alike realized that they could move quickly toward a full regime change. The first heedless acts of conformity could not then be reversed. In early 1938, Adolf Hitler, by then securely in power in Germany, was threatening to annex neighboring Austria. After the Austrian chancellor conceded, it was the Austrians' anticipatory obedience that decided the fate of Austrian Jews. Local Austrian Nazis captured Jews and forced them to scrub the streets to remove symbols of independent Austria. Crucially, people who were not Nazis looked on with interest and amusement. Nazis who had kept lists of Jewish property stole what they could. Crucially, others who were not Nazis joined in the theft. As the political theorist Hannah Arendt remembered, "when German troops invaded the country and Gentile neighbors started riots at Jewish homes, Austrian Jews began to commit suicide." The anticipatory obedience of Austrians in March 1938 taught the high Nazi leadership what was possible. It was in Vienna that August that Adolf Eichmann established the Central Office for Jewish Emigration. In November 1938, following the Austrian example of March, German Nazis organized the national pogrom known as Kristallnacht. In 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the SS took the initiative to devise the methods of mass killing without orders to do so. They guessed what their superiors wanted and demonstrated what was possible. It was far more than Hitler had thought. At the very beginning, anticipatory obedience means adapting instinctively, without reflecting, to a new situation. Do only Germans do such things? The Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram, contemplating Nazi atrocities, wanted to show that there was a particular authoritarian personality that explained why such Germans behaved as they had. He devised an experiment to test the proposition, but failed to get permission to carry it out in Germany. So he undertook it instead in a Yale University building in 1961--­at around the same time that Adolf Eichmann was being tried in Jerusalem for his part in the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. Milgram told his subjects (some Yale students, some New Haven residents) that they would be applying an electrical shock to other participants in an experiment about learning. In fact, the people attached to the wires on the other side of a window were in on the scheme with Milgram, and only pretended to be shocked. As the subjects (thought they) shocked the (people they thought were) participants in a learning experiment, they saw a horrible sight. People whom they did not know, and against whom they had no grievance, seemed to be suffering greatly--­pounding the glass and complaining of heart pain. Even so, most subjects followed Milgram's instructions and continued to apply (what they thought were) ever greater shocks until the victims appeared to die. Even those who did not proceed all the way to the (apparent) killing of their fellow human beings left without inquiring about the health of the other participants. Milgram grasped that people are remarkably receptive to new rules in a new setting. They are surprisingly willing to harm and kill others in the service of some new purpose if they are so instructed by a new authority. "I found so much obedience," Milgram remembered, "that I hardly saw the need for taking the experiment to Germany." Excerpted from On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.