In This Review

A Question of Order: India, Turkey, and the Return of Strongmen
A Question of Order: India, Turkey, and the Return of Strongmen
By Basharat Peer
160 pp, Columbia Global Reports, 2017

In recent years, an illiberal wave has swept the world, as constitutional democracies have come under the sway of authoritarian leaders. One result is the emergence of hybrid regimes led by strongman rulers who win office through elections but, once in power, augment their executive authority at the expense of free speech and fair play. Peer’s illuminating little book provides a ground-level account of this phenomenon in India and Turkey, revealing striking parallels between the two cases. In both places, the turn to authoritarianism has proceeded slowly, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have introduced business-friendly policies while chipping away at the freedom of the press and civil rights. Both men have moved away from Western-style political visions of democratic rights and liberties in favor of appeals to nationalism and ethnic and religious identity. With a keen journalist’s eye, Peer observes how various kinds of people—politicians, shopkeepers, intellectuals—experience these regime transitions. He finds that the most profound change is also the most subtle: a slow and sometimes imperceptible erosion of civic culture and political norms that undermines the democratic spirit.