Many scholars of authoritarianism noticed striking similarities between dictatorships of the past and President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, policies, and style of rule. Ben-Ghiat’s study of authoritarians from Benito Mussolini to Trump approaches the problem through the lens of a strongman “playbook,” providing a detailed and often intimate history of how these men win, exercise, and lose power. Although heavily focused on European figures—including Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, Recep Erdoğan, and Victor Orbán—Strongmen also examines, to varying degrees, dictators from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, including Idi Amin (Uganda), Mohamed Barre (Somalia), Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Augusto Pinochet (Chile), Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), and Nahrendra Modi (India). The book’s strength lies in the connections drawn across cases, providing “a long view of the authoritarian style of governance, which highlights baseline features that recur in different circumstances” with the goal of...

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