> Skip to content
  • Published: 12 April 2022
  • ISBN: 9781847926425
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $40.00

The Age of The Strongman

How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy around the World

A sweeping, penetrating and first truly global explanation of the dangerous state of our world, by one of the best-connected, most respected reporters on international politics

In The Age of the Strongman, Gideon Rachman finds global coherence in the chaos of the new nationalism, leadership cults and hostility to liberal democracy.

We are in a new era: authoritarian leaders have become a central feature of global politics. Since 2000, self-styled strongmen have risen to power in capitals as diverse as Moscow, Beijing, Delhi, Brasilia, Budapest, Ankara, Riyadh and Washington.

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

While in the West the EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump in 2016 mark a watershed, the new era started at the beginning of the new millennium, when Vladimir Putin took power in Russia. How and why did this new style of strongman leadership arrive? How likely is it to lead the world into war or economic collapse? And what liberal forces are in place not only to keep these strongmen in check but to reverse the trend? With the world in the grip of a global pandemic and on the verge of environmental catastrophe, their actions have consequences not just for their nations but for the whole planet.

From Trump, Putin and Bolsonaro to Erdogan, Xi and Modi, Gideon Rachman pays full attention to the strongman phenomenon around the world and uncovers the complex and often surprising interaction between these leaders. In the process, he finds the common themes in our local nightmares and offers a bold new paradigm for understanding our world. Whilst others have tried to understand the emergence of these new leaders individually, The Age of the Strongman provides the first truly global treatment of the new nationalism, underpinned by an exceptional level of access to key actors in this drama: Gideon Rachman has been in the same room with most of these strongmen and reported from their countries over a long journalistic career.

  • Published: 12 April 2022
  • ISBN: 9781847926425
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $40.00

About the author

Gideon Rachman

Gideon Rachman is the chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times. In 2016 he won the Orwell Prize for Journalism and was named Commentator of the Year at the European Press Prize awards. Previously he worked for The Economist for fifteen years, serving as a foreign correspondent in Washington, Bangkok and Brussels.

Also by Gideon Rachman

See all

Praise for The Age of The Strongman

A carefully written analysis of strongman leaders all over the world and the threat they pose to liberal democracy... Rachman illuminates the common instincts, tactics and behaviour that link leaders as diverse as Trump, Putin, Xi and Modi

Anne Applebaum

This readable book does an admirable job of providing the lay of the land and highlighting the importance of the battle of ideas for the future of our institutions and norms

Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of Why Nations Fail and The Narrow Corridor

Essential and definitive... To understand the chilling stakes of the global Great Game defining this century - the battle between autocracies and democracies - you need only turn to Rachman's magisterial and deftly written book

Catherine Belton, author of Putin's People

Timely, laser-sharp and unsettling. In telling us about strongmen who dominate politics around the world, Gideon Rachman paints a picture that is at turns illuminating and terrifying. A must read

Peter Frankopan, author of The New Silk Roads

A searing analysis... A superb and scintillating portrait, indispensable for understanding our crisis-riven age

Shruti Kapila, author of Violent Fraternity: Indian Political Thought in the Global Age

When it comes to making sense of today's world, Gideon Rachman is in a league of his own. He is sharp, original and unsentimental.

Ivan Krastev, co-author of The Light that Failed

In a chaotic world where old definitions of left and right no longer hold, Rachman expertly and artfully surfaces the underlying political, economic and cultural patterns behind the new authoritarianism across the world

Peter Pomserantsev, author of This Is Not Propaganda

This is a brilliant, unsettling portrait of our era

Rana Mitter, author of China's Good War

Timing is everything. Gideon Rachman has got his spot on with The Age Of The Strongman

Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

Timely...Rachman... has a journalist's eye for the telling quote combined with a sharp analysis of the factors that enabled them to achieve power and hold on to it

Lawrence Freedman, Sunday Times

Rachman... always prompt[s] deeper thought about how the West should be dealing with the challenge [of the strongman]... [a] lucid, well-argued book

Roger Boyes, The Times

Fascinating...Rachman uncovers a source of contemporary authoritarian thinking in many places

Literary Review

Wide-ranging and astute... Rachman's most powerful point concerns not the strongmen themselves, but Western politicians' and commentators' wishful thinking about them


This is a book whose significance is enhanced by unpredictable events... [A] pithy and forceful book

Misha Glenny, Observer

Brilliant and profoundly alarming... a comprehensive survey, written with pace, clarity, and a superb, page-turning narrative fluency


Solidly constructed, engaging and factually sound... [The Age of the Strongman] is a penetrating distillation of the essential ingredients of the strongman that effectively demonstrates a worrying commonality between wildly different personalities and circumstances

Alex Younger, Financial Times

A series of fluent, well-informed essays about the global rise of authoritarianism

Simon Tisdall, Guardian

[A] brilliant and profoundly alarming book... Gideon Rachman offers a comprehensive survey, written with pace, clarity, and a superb, page-turning narrative fluency

Joyce McMillan, Yorkshire Post

This brilliant and profoundly alarming book...offers a comprehensive survey, written with pace, clarity, and a superb, page-turning narrative fluency

Scotsman, *Summer Reads of 2022*

Related titles