The Cutting Edge of Sharp Power

Issue Date January 2020
Volume 31
Issue 1
Page Numbers 124-137
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When it comes to the impact of authoritarian sharp power on the future of democracy, perhaps no other domain is as pivotal as that of technology. Technological interdependence has enabled modernizing authoritarians to reach across borders to censor and manipulate public discourse, sharpen polarization, and undermine democracy. From “safe-city” surveillance projects to state-linked disinformation campaigns on social-media platforms, authoritarians’ technological footprint can be seen around the world. Authoritarian regimes are also working to shape the international standards and norms that will govern the next generation of technology. Mounting an effective response will require a long-term, purposeful strategy rooted in civil society as well as in state institutions.

About the Authors

Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker is vice-president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy. He is the author (with Shanthi Kalathil and Jessica Ludwig) of “The Cutting Edge of Sharp Power,” which appeared in the January 2020 issue of the Journal of Democracy and “What is Sharp Power?” from the July 2018 issue of the Journal.

View all work by Christopher Walker

Shanthi Kalathil

Shanthi Kalathil is director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy.

View all work by Shanthi Kalathil

Jessica Ludwig

Jessica Ludwig is a senior program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy.

View all work by Jessica Ludwig