Defending Democracy in an Age of Sharp Power

October 30, 2023
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

About the event

The world’s dictators are no longer content with shoring up control over their own populations—they are exploiting the openness of the free world to manipulate the information sphere, sow discord, and suppress dissent. Autocrats’ use of “sharp power” constitutes one of the gravest threats to liberal, representative government today. The optimistic, early twenty-first-century narrative of how globalization, the spread of the internet, and the rise of social media would lead to liberalization everywhere is now giving way to the realization that these same forces provide inroads to those wishing to snuff out democracy at the source. And while autocrats can do much to wall their societies off from democratic and liberal influences, free societies have not yet fully grasped how they can resist the threat of sharp power while preserving their fundamental openness and freedom.

In Defending Democracy in an Age of Sharp Power, editors William J. Dobson, Tarek Masoud, and Christopher Walker bring together leading analysts to explain how the world’s authoritarians are attempting to erode the pillars of democratic societies—and what we can do about it. With careful case studies of successful resistance efforts in such countries as Australia, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan, this book offers an urgent message for anyone concerned with the defense of democracy in the twenty-first century.

The National Endowment for Democracy hosted a conversation with select contributors, moderated by Frank Langfitt (NPR).


Sarah Cook

Senior advisor for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

Freedom House

Nadège Rolland

Distinguished fellow for China studies

National Bureau of Asian Research

Glenn Tiffert

Distinguished research fellow

Hoover Institution

William Dobson


Journal of Democracy


Frank Langfitt

Global democracy correspondent



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