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Trapped in False Antitheses: Timothy Snyder’s Analyses of the Global Authoritarian Turn Are Crippled by His Anti-totalitarian Framework


This paper critically scrutinizes Timothy Snyder’s book The Road to
Unfreedom. Russia, Europe, America (The Bodley Head, Vintage, London
2018). It claims that the main reason for his failure to present a convincing
account of the current neo-nationalist and authoritarian turn and outline an
adequate intellectual and political response to it is his clinging to an anti-totalitarian framework which he had applied to Eastern Europe in some of
his previous historical works (Snyder 2003, 2010). The framework reduces
three main ideological alternatives that fought with each other in the last
century into two: liberalism was supposedly challenged by totalitarianism.
Since Snyder reduces the present crisis to the threat of the return of
totalitarianism, he sees an appropriate response in the revival of the human
and civic solidarity associated with the anti-totalitarian movements of the
last century. The essay outlines an alternative view: it links the present crisis
of democracy to the ravaging e!ects of neo-liberal globalization and,
accordingly, suggests combining anti-authoritarianism with anti-capitalism
– or human and civic solidarity with social solidarity.


totalitarian paradigm, false dichotomies, neoliberal globalization, the new and old social movements, crisis of democracy

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Author Biography

Pavel Barša

Pavel Barša (1960) is Professor of Political Science at Charles University in
Prague. He holds an M.A. degree in Political Science from Central European
University in Budapest (1994) and Ph.D. degree in Philosophy from Masaryk
University in Brno (1996). He specializes in Political Theory and International
Relations. He has published books on American foreign policy, theory of
social movements and emancipation, multiculturalism and migration
policies. His current research project deals with the present neo-nationalist turn in Central Europe.