"Dikötter writes with academic rigor and awareness that these megalomaniacal figures continue to inspire fascination relevant to politically volatile times." --Kirkus Reviews
"Monuments crumble and statues fall, but How to Be a Dictator succeeds in identifying how and why linguistic domination has lasting power." - Paste
"How to Be a Dictator takes off from a conviction, no doubt born of [Dikötter's] Mao studies, that a tragic amnesia about what ideologues in power are like has taken hold of too many minds amid the current 'crisis of liberalism.' And so he attempts a sort of anatomy of authoritarianism, large and small, from Mao to Papa Doc Duvalier. Each dictator's life is offered with neat, mordant compression. Dikötter's originality is that he counts crimes against civilization alongside crimes against humanity." - New Yorker
"If [The Cultural Revolution] were widely circulated in China, it could undermine the legitimacy of the current regime . . . This book is a significant event in our understanding of modern China." --New York Times Book Review on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
"A fine, sharp study of this tumultuous, elusive era . . . [An] excellent follow-up to his groundbreaking previous work . . . Dikötter tells a harrowing tale of unbelievable suffering. A potent combination of precise history and moving examples." --Starred review, Kirkus Reviews on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
"Richly documented . . . Dikötter paints a chilling picture." --Publishers Weekly on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
"For those who have swallowed the poisonous claim that the Communist Party deserves some credit for China's current patchy prosperity, Mr. Dikötter provides the antidote." --Wall Street Journal on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
"Dikötter's well-researched and readable new book on the Cultural Revolution's causes and consequences is a crucial reminder of the tragedies, miscalculations and human costs of Mao's last experiment." --The Guardian on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
"A fascinating account of how people twisted or resisted the aims of Mao's movement. ****" --Daily Telegraph on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
"The murderous frenzy of the times, which tore apart friends and families, not to speak of the Communist party itself, is powerfully conveyed." --The Times on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
"Fluent, compelling and based on a wide range of evidence." --Financial Times on THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION
'Enlightening and a good read' SPECTATOR
'Moving and perceptive' NEW STATESMAN
Mussolini, 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 Dikötter 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.