Nineteenth Annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture: Anne Applebaum on “Autocracy Inc.”

December 01, 2022
06:00 pm - 08:30 pm

The 2022 Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World was delivered by Anne Applebaum, staff writer at the Atlantic, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Applebaum described how authoritarian powers cooperate and learn from one another, with the aim of tightening their grip on power and enriching themselves and their allies. In this new environment, dictators weaponize networks composed of security services, propagandists, and kleptocratic financial institutions. These networks are then mobilized across borders to prop up other illiberal actors in the service of larger authoritarian objectives. Applebaum calls this alarming trend “Autocracy Inc.”

Amid the rise of Autocracy Inc, Applebaum called upon democracies to defend democratic principles across key domains. She urged state actors to coordinate and collaborate, as democratic norms and principles can only survive if they are robustly defended. Democracies must defend their values in the global information space, scholarly institutions, and cultural organizations, rather than ceding ground to autocrats. Policymakers must also acknowledge that cooperation with repressive regimes will always carry inherent risks. In spite of the current trend of democratic regression, a committed, whole-of-society response from free societies can tilt the scales in favor of democracy.

Inaugurated in 2004, the Lipset Lecture is a joint annual lecture sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Embassy of Canada to the United States, and the University of Toronto’s Department of Political Science and Munk School of Global Affairs. View past lectures on key democracy issues.

Once we understand that we helped to build the kleptocratic structures in which Autocracy Inc. thrives, then we might begin to realize that we can also help take them apart.






Anne Applebaum is a staff writer for The Atlantic and a Pulitzer-prize winning historian. She is also a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the Agora Institute, where she co-directs Arena, a program on disinformation and 21st century propaganda. Applebaum is a member of the board of directors at the National Endowment for Democracy and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Democracy.

A Washington Post columnist for fifteen years and a former member of the editorial board, she has also worked as the foreign and deputy editor of the Spectator Magazine in London, as the political editor of the Evening Standard, a columnist at Slate, and various positions at The Telegraph. From 1988-1991, she covered the collapse of communism as the Warsaw correspondent of The Economist magazine and The Independent newspaper.

Her most recent book, The Twilight of Democracy: the Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (2020), explains why some of her contemporaries have abandoned liberal democratic ideals in favor of strongman cults, nationalist movements, or one-party states.

Applebaum’s previous books include Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (2017); Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 (2012); and Gulag: A History (2003). Both Iron Curtain and Gulag: A History have appeared in more than two dozen translations and both were National Book Award finalists.