This story is from Democracy Digest:
The new despotisms defy the standard distinction between democracy and authoritarianism, argues John Keane (above), Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney. The “whip-smart resilience” of these distinctive regimes should not be underestimated, he writes in an adaptation from his new book, The New Despotism (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 2020).
The writing is on democracy’s wall: not since the 1920s and early 1930s, when our planet was besieged by collapsing empires, military dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, has power-sharing constitutional democracy everywhere been under such intense pressure from self-confidently anti-democratic methods of governing people. A deep dive into the murky power dynamics within countries otherwise as different as Russia and Vietnam, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Hungary, China and the United Arab Emirates shows why. It reveals that something sinister is being born of our darkening times: a new kind of despotism the world has never before known.
The word despotism has long been out of fashion but it’s the vital keyword we need to understand how democracies can be outflanked and undermined not just by social unrest, economic stagnation, political conspiracies and military coups, but also by 21st-century technologies of power that exude a fatal charm. Despotism isn’t a synonym for rule by fear and raw force. In practice, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán and other despots are not like the tyrants, autocrats and dictators of yesteryear. The new despots are masters of clever deception and seduction. They manage, using a medley of slick means, to win the loyalty of the ruled, including important parts of the middle classes, skilled and unskilled workers and the poor. Voluntary servitude is their thing. The leader of the pack of the new despotisms, the People’s Republic of China, shows that they can even win many admirers and friends well beyond the borders of the states they rule.
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