The Dictator’s Learning Curve: A Political Salon with William Dobson

World Policy Presents

The Dictator's Learning Curve
A Political Salon with William Dobson

Thursday, November 15th, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
This event is by invitation only.


The Arab Spring illuminated the changing face of authoritarian rule. Strongmen like former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi once dominated the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa, but now have joined a cache of toppled regime leaders. Still, autocratic leaders such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Russian President Vladimir Putin remain in relative control, having adapted their style of rule to avoid ceding absolute power.
How do dictators’ behaviors change over time? How is their grip on power executed differently now than in the past? Are dictators and autocrats getting smarter? William Dobson’s much-anticipated new book, The Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy, proposes that democracy — albeit of an illegitimate variety — has become the new standard for retaining power in authoritarian rulers’ playbook. As recent years have seen a host of rigged elections and inadequate polling practices, Mr. Dobson’s book is set against a backdrop of real-world vignettes, ranging from South America to Southeast Asia. At a moment in history when toppled dictators are being replaced with fledgling democracies, join us for a discussion about how some authoritarian regimes have constructed a new place for themselves in the international order.

Related Reading:

The "Democracy" issue of the World Policy Journal (Fall 2012) features our first Autocracy Index ranking the world’s most totalitarian dictators, as well as conversations with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and artist and dissident Ai Weiwei.

Selected Articles:
"21st Century Dictatorships," The Brian Lehrer Show, June 2012.
"Anatomy: The Autocracy Index," World Policy Journal‚Äč, Fall 2012.
"Russia's Grandest Master," World Policy Journal, Summer 2012

About the Speaker

William J. Dobson is the Politics and Foreign Affairs Editor for Slate Magazine. Previously, he served as the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine. Earlier in his career, Mr. Dobson served as Senior Editor for Asia for Newsweek International and as Associate Editor at Foreign Affairs. His international politics articles and op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek. He has provided commentary and analysis on international politics for ABC, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and NPR. He holds a law degree from Harvard Law School and a Masters degree in East Asian Studies from Harvard University. He received his bachelor's degree, summa cum laude, from Middlebury College.



Christopher Shay is managing editor of World Policy Journal and a former reporter and editor at the Phnom Penh Post, an English-language daily newspaper in Cambodia.

About the Sponsors

The World Policy Institute is a non-partisan center for global thought leadership focused on emerging challenges, thinkers, and solutions. World Policy fellows, events, policy development and media outreach, alongside our flagship World Policy Journal, provide a forum for solution-directed policy analysis and debate in support of a sustainable market economy, effective governance, and broadened security strategies.

The Political Salon – organized by Steve Sokol since 2003 to promote dialogue among the next generation of leaders in business, policy, and the media – regularly convenes a diverse group of young professionals to discuss a range of foreign policy issues and global affairs. Attendees are diverse in terms of nationality, profession, and political persuasion.

With special thanks the Heinrich Böll Foundation for supporting the Political Salon.


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