Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum

Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends

Festival of Ideas Online/
Thu 30 July 2020

Crowdcast

Anne Applebaum

Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends

Anne Applebaum
Thu 30 July 2020,

Crowdcast

Read the transcript: Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy

Read the large print transcript: Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy

Why did the wave of enthusiasm for liberal democracy, shared across the political spectrum in the 1980s and 90s, come to an end?  How did we come to be so divided?  Why did everyone get so angry?

Acclaimed historian of totalitarian regimes as well as a penetrating analyst of contemporary politics, Anne Applebaum (Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends), offers an original interpretation of democratic decline. She charts the rise of autocratic and paranoid governments in Poland and Hungary, the cultural despair that fuelled Brexit, the media cacophony that has driven some Spaniards to return to old nationalist slogans, and the apocalyptic pessimism that led many to support the election of Trump.

She examines the cynical use of conspiracy theory as well as the authentic desperation of those who believe that their nation is in danger of extinction; the role of social media in creating anger and anxiety, as well as the anger at a meritocratic system that, by definition, always left some people out; and the intellectual roots of what she calls the ‘seductions of autocracy’ and shows how, given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy.

Political leaders and historical figures appear in the story, but Applebaum focusses above all on the dissatisfied intellectuals, philosophers, spin doctors and journalists who deliberately sought to create new definitions of “the nation,” new political realities, and sometimes deep new divisions. Many of them – in Poland, the US and the UK – were once Applebaum’s friends. She is in conversation with Festival of Ideas director Andrew Kelly.

This is part of our Future of Democracy series which is taking place all year and will culminate in a constitutional convention, currently scheduled for November 2020.

Thanks to Allen Lane for supporting this event.

Image of the front cover of the book Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum

Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends is published by Allen Lane. Buy a copy from our bookseller partner Waterstones.

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