How to be a Dictator

Dikotter, Frank

  6 Reviews

Lord Acton's proverb 'power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely', was just as relevant in the twentieth century as it was when it was originally opined in 1887. Look no further for proof than to the eight dictators assembled here: Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Duvalier, Ceausescu, and last but not least, Mengistu. Strikingly similar in their ability to achieve and maintain power through political terror and public worship, these household names are examined to engrossing effect.

Approachable and well-crafted, this book is an impartial exposure of tyrannical leaders hard at work manipulating and menacing their respective nations.



Most members selected a few dictators to read about, as there was so much information in each segment. Much discussion arose about current leaders world wide and the global situation in general. And what is going in in N.Z!
HAVE 016
Can't say the group particularly 'enjoyed' this book, but it certainly engendered some lively discussion about dictators. There was some criticism as to the lack of robust analysis and the book didn't live up to its title.
Horrifically brutal but eye-opening. We were surprised to read that Hitler was strongly influenced by Mussolini and in his rise to power used the same brutal tactics to gain and keep his own power. We were curious to know how many of these leaders had genuine followers as oppose to followers through fear. This book is not a 'light' read and some of us only skimmed each chapter.
WELL 042
We agreed that we learned a lot, but felt disappointed that there was little analysis, or insights - it seemed like it was just a chronology of facts ( interesting though they were!).
Mixed reactions, scores varied from 2 to 5. We learned about some less well-known leaders. Comments that the book lacked depth; also, detail sought of the early influences affecting development. One of our group provided a detailed interesting account by a family member born and raised in Ethiopia during Mengistu's brutal and repressive regime. Points not mentioned by Dikotter include Mengistu's social and economic development by way of establishment of a national health care system, implementation of a system of universal education and heavy investment in infrastructure development.
A gripping yet terrible book; in showing how these men seize and keep power, we learnt something we needed to know.