The Age of the Strongman: How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy Around the World

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The Age of the Strongman: How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy Around the World

5th July 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Since the beginning of the millennium, when Vladimir Putin took power in Russia, authoritarian leaders have come to dominate global politics. Self-styled strongmen have risen to power in Moscow, Beijing, Delhi, Brasilia, Budapest, Ankara, Riyadh and Washington.

How and why did this new style of strongman leadership arrive? How likely is it to lead to war or economic collapse? And what forces are in place not only to keep these strongmen in check but to reverse the trend?

Everywhere they go, these leaders encourage a cult of personality. They are nationalists and social conservatives, with little tolerance for minorities, dissent or the interests of foreigners. At home, they claim to stand up for ordinary people against globalist elites; abroad, they posture as the embodiments of their nations. And they are not just operating in authoritarian political systems but have begun to emerge in the heartlands of liberal democracy.

The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to a fascinating discussion with Gideon Rachman about his most recent book ‘The Age of the Strongman’ where he will be exploring how the cult of the leader threatens democracy around the world.


Gideon Rachman is chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times. He is a winner of the Orwell prize for political journalism (2016) and of the European Press Prize for political commentary. His book “Easternisation – War and Peace in the Asian Century” was published in 2016. A previous book, “Zero-Sum World” was published in 2010. Before joining the FT in 2006, he worked for The Economist for 15 years in a range of jobs, including as a foreign correspondent in Brussels, Bangkok and Washington. Mr Rachman read history at Cambridge University and has been a visiting fellow at Princeton University and the LSE.



Dr Alan Mendoza is a Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society, Britain’s leading thinktank fighting for the principles and alliances which keep societies free. He directs strategy for the organisation as well as acting as its main public face in mediums as diverse as the BBC, Sky, CNBC, Al-Jazeera. Bloomberg, LBC and TalkRadio. On the print side, Alan is a columnist for City AM, London’s business newspaper, and has contributed to The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Sun and a host of international newspapers and magazines.

Having obtained a B.A. (Hons.) and M.Phil in history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Alan completed a Ph.D. at the same institution. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was the Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservative Party in the Brent Central Constituency for the 2015 General Election. He is also a Trustee of the President Reagan Memorial Fund Trust.






The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to hold a discussion on the ‘strongman phenomenon’ and the cult of personality in leadership. Dr Mendoza began the conversation by introducing the speaker and his book ‘The Age of the Strongman’. Gideon Rachman discussed the characteristics of strongman leadership taking the examples of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Donald Trump in the United States and Vladimir Putin in Russia. He highlighted that the causes explaining the rise of strongmen to power are complex and depend on economic, cultural, and geopolitical aspects specific to each country. Gideon Rachman then answered questions on the links between strongman leadership and populism, the role of social media in their rise to power, historical examples of this phenomenon and the impacts of Covid-19 on authoritarian surveillance.





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Gideon Rachman


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