#1 New York Times Bestseller
The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.
Timothy Snyder is the Levin Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Snyder is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.
Unlike public intellectuals who casually toss around the word "fascist" to describe a disappointing restaurant salad, Snyder knows this subject cold. He is a Yale University historian who has written at length on fascism, Communism and the Holocaust…For such a small book, Snyder invests On Tyranny with considerable heft…Approach this…book the same way you would a medical pamphlet warning about an infectious disease. Read it carefully and be on the lookout for symptoms.The New York Times Book Review - Daniel W. Drezner
A Washington Post Notable Book
"We are rapidly ripening for fascism. This American writer leaves us with no illusions about ourselves." —Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
"Timothy Snyder reasons with unparalleled clarity, throwing the past and future into sharp relief. He has written the rare kind of book that can be read in one sitting but will keep you coming back to help regain your bearings. Put a copy in your pocket and one on your bedside table, and it will help you keep going for the next four years or however long it takes." —Masha Gessen
"Please read this book. So smart, so timely." —George Saunders
“Easily the most compelling volume among the early resistance literature. . . . A slim book that fits alongside your pocket Constitution and feels only slightly less vital. . . . Clarifying and unnerving. . . . A memorable work that is grounded in history yet imbued with the fierce urgency of what now.” —Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post
“Snyder knows this subject cold. . . . It is impossible to read aphorisms like ‘post-truth is pre-fascism’ and not feel a small chill about the current state of the Republic. . . . Approach this short book the same you would a medical pamphlet warning about an infectious disease. Read it carefully and be on the lookout for symptoms.” —Daniel W. Drezner, The New York Times Book Review
"As Timothy Snyder explains in his fine and frightening On Tyranny, a minority party now has near-total power and is therefore understandably frightened of awakening the actual will of the people." —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“Snyder is superbly positioned to bring historical thinking to bear on the current political scene. . . . These unpretentious words remind us that political resistance isn’t a matter of action-movie heroics, but starts from a willingness to break from social expectations.” —Jeet Heer, The New Republic
“The perfect clear-eyed antidote to Trump’s deliberate philistinism. . . . These 128 pages are a brief primer in every important thing we might have learned from the history of the last century, and all that we appear to have forgotten.” —Tim Adams, The Guardian
“On Tyranny demands to be read.” —The Forward
“The manifesto we need. . . . Snyder detects dangerous trends in American politics that may be less visible to most citizens who cannot believe that our country, with its system of checks and balances, could succumb to illiberalism or authoritarianism.” —Darryl Holter, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Bracing. . . . On Tyranny is a call to action. . . . A brisk read packed with lucid prose.” —VoxFrom the Publisher
"Stand out." "Believe in truth." "Be calm when the unthinkable arrives." A historian offers a set of 20 prescriptions for how to live under a dictatorship.If we read our history properly, we have plenty of examples of how people have held up under tyranny, some resisting, some complying, some collaborating. In this slim book, a sort of operating manual for navigating the new authoritarianism that was first born as a set of social media memes after the recent presidential election in the United States, Snyder (History/Yale Univ.; Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, 2015, etc.) finds many of those examples in Greek and Roman history but many more in the totalitarian history of the 20th century. Both fascism and communism, he warns, were "responses to globalization" and to rising inequality. "We might be tempted to think that our democratic heritage automatically protects us from such threats," he writes, adding, "this is a misguided reflex." Snyder begins his series of provocations with the warning, "do not obey in advance"—i.e., yield no ground to self-censorship and self-policing, to what he calls "anticipatory obedience." He moves on immediately from the individual to the macro level, urging his readers to understand that it is institutions such as the courts and the free press that preserve democratic mores against the ways of authoritarian rulers, would-be or real; it is no accident that orders of noncompliance against recent federal immigration mandates have come from a judiciary committed to defending the Constitution. Throughout, Snyder carefully weighs his rules for radicals against historical benchmarks. Given that the current administration seems less inclined to Hitlerian efficiency than to Ruritanian chaos and Mussolinian posturing, thankfully, there is some reason to think that the direst of Snyder's warnings may be fodder for a worst-case scenario rather than daily life. Those committed to resistance will want to study up on them all the same. Timely and essential, if, one hopes, a bit more than the present situation requires.