“History does not repeat, but it does instruct.”
I first the text of the book around the time it came out, and it’s an appealing and terrifying book. If you read a lot of Timothy Snyder, you begin to understand that he’s a kind of old school European-style liberal, and the fact that he’s worked with Tony Judt on several projects before Judt died makes perfect sense. Tony Judt has a basic idea that if you want a public policy to really work, you have to offer it to everyone, because then there is buy-in. It’s the way someone like Ayn Rand ends up on welfare, and despite her hypocrisy on the issue, America is better for her being able to access that public good when she needed than not.
This book creates a set of rules, mostly based off of experiences from history from people who faced life in authoritarian states. At the time of the printing, Trump of course was flirting very heavily with authoritarianism, and even though he has never had a real political thought in his head, the danger was real because of his personal predilection for self-interest. It’s not unlike someone like Pinochet using violence to stay in power even though by all accounts from people who knew him before the coups he wasn’t all the personally authoritarian. When the notion strikes people, it strikes them regardless.
This book provides things to look out for, things to know, and ideas to explore in the face of, in the possibility, and in the likelihood of authoritarianism. The artwork here is interesting and compelling, often providing photographic evidence of some of the topics, but also just adding some visual interestingness to the importance of the book.