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Anne Applebaum: Autocracy, Inc.

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People think they know what an autocratic state looks like: There is an all-powerful leader at the top; he controls the police; the police threaten the people with violence; there are evil collaborators, and maybe some brave dissidents.

But in the 21st century, that bears little resemblance to reality. Nowadays, autocracies are underpinned not by one dictator, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, surveillance technologies, and professional propagandists, all of which operate across multiple regimes, from China to Russia to Iran. Corrupt companies in one country do business with corrupt companies in another. The police in one country can arm and train the police in another, and propagandists share resources and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America.

So what can be done?

Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times bestselling author Anne Applebaum says that international condemnation and economic sanctions cannot move the autocrats. Even popular opposition movements, from Venezuela to Hong Kong to Moscow, don't stand a chance. The members of “Autocracy, Inc.,” as she dubs the movement, aren't linked by a unifying ideology, like communism, but rather a common desire for power, wealth, and impunity.

Applebaum joins us for a special online program to share her urgent call for the world’s democracies to fundamentally reorient their policies to fight a new kind of threat. Join us the find out how that can be done.


This program is online only; pre-register to receive a link to the live-stream.

The Commonwealth Club World Affairs of California is a nonprofit public forum; we welcome donations made during registration to support the production of our programming.

Copies of Autocracy, Inc. are available for purchase during checkout (U.S. domestic shipping only).

This program is part of The Commonwealth Club’s Future of Democracy Series, supported by Betsy and Roy Eisenhardt.

Future of Democracy Series

Applebaum photo by Maciej Zienkiewicz .

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Tue, Jul 30 / 12:00 PM PDT

The Commonwealth Club World Affairs of California
United States

Image - Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum

Staff Writer, The Atlantic; Author, Autocracy, Inc: The Dictators Who Want to Run the World; X @anneapplebaum

Moderator TBA


12–1 p.m program
(all times Pacific Time)


Free for members
$10 nonmembers
$27 members with a book
$37 nonmembers with a book