Strongmen now rule over some of the most populous countries on earth. This talk looks at the character and appeal of these authoritarian rulers. Press policies, strategies of repression, personality cults, masculinity and how to resist the strongman will be examined. Ben-Ghiat will argue that the way to understand Donald Trump is not through psychiatric diagnosis but by looking at him in the context of a century of authoritarian rulers from Mussolini onward.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, is a political commentator and cultural critic who has received Guggenheim and other fellowships for her work on fascism, war and visual propaganda. In Fascist Modernities and Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema, she looks at what happens to societies when authoritarian governments take hold and why they appealed to so many. Her New Yorker article on the normalization of Fascist monuments at a time of resurgent right-wing politics in Italy prompted a national debate about how to consider fascism’s heritage today.