24th February: Twilight of Democracy

On Wednesday 24th February, we will discuss “New Years Eve” and “How Demagogues Win” – the first two chapters of Anne Applebaum’s 2020 book “Twilight of Democracy”. Download the chapters via the link below. As ever, it’s great if people are able to read more of the book than the focus text, which we have picked primarily because it is freely available. Chas de Whalley, a regular attendee who recommended the book, will introduce it for us and place the chapters we will discuss in context.

This is an online event, which will be held from 7.30-9.30pm via Zoom. For Zoom details, which we keep private to group members, please contact us. Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topic, you do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we even welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen! Please contact us if you have any questions.

Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends” (or, in the US “The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism“) discusses democratic decline and the rise of right-wing populist politics with authoritarian tendencies in Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. You can buy Twilight of Democracy from Hive for £12.65 (reduced from £16.99) and Stroud Bookshop or the Yellow Lighted Bookshop will surely be able to order it in for you.

“When politics becomes polarized, which side do you back?

If you are a journalist, an intellectual, a civic leader, how do you deal with the re-emergence of authoritarian or nationalist ideas in your country?

When your leaders appropriate history, or pedal conspiracies, or eviscerate the media and the judiciary, do you go along with it?

Twilight of Democracy is an essay that combines the personal and the political in an original way and brings a fresh understanding to the dynamics of public life in Europe and America, both now and in the recent past.”

– From the Publisher’s webpage (Penguin Books)

If you prefer to engage through audio, you can listen to a 50 minute Talking Politics podcast with the author discussing the book. This looks at Poland, Trump and Brexit, Hungary and Spain – asking the questions “What explains the prevalence of conspiracy theories in contemporary politics? Why are so many conservatives drawn to the politics of despair? Is history really circular? And is democracy doomed?”

Anne Applebaum is the author of the 2004 Pullitzer Prize-winning “Gulag: A History”, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe” (2012), “Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe” (1994), and “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine” (2017). She is a historian and journalist (at one time on the editorial board of the Washington Post, she now writes for The Atlantic). She was born in America and has been a Polish citizen since 2013 (she is married to Radosław Sikorski, who has been Poland’s Defence Minister, and Foreign Minister).

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