Summary of An Era of Authoritarian Influence?

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When the Soviet Union collapsed, many celebrated the triumph of Western liberal democracy. As political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued in his daringly titled essay, “The End of History?” in 1989, no other form of governance could possibly rival the Western model. Less than three decades later, however, democratic ideals around the world are under assault. As Thorsten Benner explains in Foreign Affairs, newly emboldened authoritarian regimes are taking advantage of Western democracies’ open economies and internal political divisions to nudge them toward illiberalism. In a concise analysis outlining the motivations and influencing tactics of totalitarian governments, Benner offers a series of recommendations on how democracies can inoculate themselves from these attacks.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How authoritarian regimes are trying to influence democracies,
  • Why these regimes are engaged in manipulative campaigns and
  • How Western democracies can fend off "authoritarian influencing."

About the Author

Thorsten Benner is director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin.



A growing number of democracies around the world are sliding toward authoritarianism. Dictatorial regimes such as those of Russia and China have been actively aiding this process in several ways. For one, they seek to draw Western public opinion in their favor by spreading information that reinforces their worldviews, often through distortions and falsehoods. Authoritarian states have also funded Western political parties friendly to their interests and cultivated relationships with Western politicians. And despots have gained a foothold and increased their political leverage in open societies by investing in strategic economic sectors.    

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