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On Tyranny summary

Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

4.4 (69 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

"On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder is a thought-provoking guide that delivers twenty essential lessons for resisting the rise of autocracy and preserving democracy.

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    On Tyranny
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    Resist tyranny by being politically active and aware of paramilitary forces.

    If you’ve been following the news these days, you’ll no doubt know that America is bristling with hostile attitudes toward “foreign threats.” However, if you have a real concern about threats to democracy, it’s often best to keep an eye on the threats from within.

    If you look at the democratic governments that have collapsed in the years since World War I, you’ll notice that each fell to a single party that seized power from within the nation.

    Nazis, communists and fascists have traditionally used spectacle and repression to enable their takeovers. They’ve also tended to use salami tactics, the process of slicing away at the opposition, taking power piece by piece. Often the public is too distracted to notice the threat to their freedom.

    This is why you must be vigilant and support a multiparty system. What you want to avoid is one power controlling every level of the government, which is what is now happening in the United States.

    You can do your part by voting, in both local and state elections, and being politically active. It’s best to support the use of paper ballots, which can’t be tampered with as easily as electronic ones. And of course, you could even run for local office yourself.

    In the meantime, another sign to beware of is paramilitary forces – that is, any military presence that isn’t state or federally sanctioned.

    If someone wants to take over, she’ll likely throw together some sort of violent organization that acts as a paramilitary wing of her political party.

    Donald Trump did something that most candidates avoid; he formed a private security force that followed his orders at political rallies. They were used to eject dissenting voices from the rallies, and the members even encouraged supporters to remove anyone who opposed the candidate.

    At one rally, Trump gave a disturbing command: “Get the remnant out!” After “the remnant” had been removed, he asked the crowd, “Isn’t this more fun than a regular boring rally? To me, it’s fun.”

    This is the kind of behavior that should make people take notice.

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    What is On Tyranny about?

    On Tyranny (2017) is a guide to recognizing the warning signs of tyranny, which, unfortunately, is a political climate that many are all too familiar with. Find out what you can do to protect yourself and keep your community vigilant and resistant to dangerous political leaders.

    On Tyranny Review

    On Tyranny (2017) by Timothy Snyder is an eye-opening exploration of the dangers of authoritarianism and the importance of defending democracy. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers timely and relevant insights into the rise of tyranny and how individuals can resist and protect democratic values.
    • Packed with historical examples and lessons, it serves as a crucial guide to understanding the past and making sense of the present political climate.
    • Its concise and accessible format engages readers with thought-provoking ideas without overwhelming them, ensuring an informative and compelling read.

    Best quote from On Tyranny

    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. – American abolitionist Wendell Phillips

    —Timothy Snyder
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    Who should read On Tyranny?

    • Citizens against oppressive regimes
    • Freedom fighters
    • Activists and demonstration organizers

    About the Author

    Timothy Snyder is a Professor of History at Yale University. His other books include Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. 

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    On Tyranny FAQs 

    What is the main message of On Tyranny?

    The main message of On Tyranny is the importance of recognizing and resisting authoritarianism.

    How long does it take to read On Tyranny?

    The reading time for On Tyranny varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is On Tyranny a good book? Is it worth reading?

    On Tyranny is a thought-provoking book that provides historical insights into tyranny and offers valuable lessons for the present. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of On Tyranny?

    The author of On Tyranny is Timothy Snyder.

    What to read after On Tyranny?

    If you're wondering what to read next after On Tyranny, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Gates of Europe by Serhii Plokhy
    • The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder
    • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
    • The Future Is History by Masha Gessen
    • Black Flags by Joby Warrick
    • Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
    • Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson
    • In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté
    • The Stoic Mindset by Mark Tuitert