Ours is the age of the strongman, of heads of state who damage or destroy democracy and use masculinity as a tool of political legitimacy. Such rulers now govern Russia, Turkey, Brazil, the United States, and other geopolitically important nations. They promise law and order rule and then legitimize lawless behavior by financial, sexual, and other predators.

Covering a century of tyranny in Africa, Europe, and the Americas, this book examines how authoritarians use propaganda, virility, corruption, and violence to stay in power. Vladimir Putin and Mobutu Sese Seko’s kleptocracies, Augusto Pinochet’s torture sites, Benito Mussolini and Muammar Gaddafi’s systems of sexual exploitation, and Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump’s relentless misinformation: all of these practices show that, far from being an efficient and stable model of governance, authoritarian rule is marked by chaos and destruction. The fruit of decades of research, Strongmen gives readers insight into how such rulers think, who and what they depend on, and how they can be opposed.