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

A Discussion Article on the topic of Timothy Snyder’s book The Road to Unfreedom. Russia, Europe, America, The Bodley Head, Vintage, London 2018, ISBN 978-1-84792-527-5.

  • Pavel Barša Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Republic,
Keywords: totalitarian paradigm, false dichotomies, neoliberal globalization, the new and old social movements, crisis of democracy


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 effects of neo-liberal globalization and, accordingly, suggests combining anti-authoritarianism with anti-capitalism – or human and civic solidarity with social solidarity.

Author Biography

Pavel Barša, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Republic,

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.

Research Articles