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The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium

by Martin Gurri

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Riding a tsunami of information, the public has trampled on the temples of authority in every domain of human activity, everywhere. The Revolt of the Public tells the story of how ordinary people, gifted amateurs networked in communities of interest, have swarmed over the hierarchies of accredited professionals, questioned their methods, and shouted their failures from the digital rooftops. In science, business, media - and, pre-eminently, in politics and government - established elites have lost the power to command attention and set the agenda.The consequences have been revolutionary. Insurgencies enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere have mobilized millions, toppling dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, crushing the ruling Socialist Party in Spain, inspiring "Tea Parties" and "Occupations" in the United States. Trust in political authority stands at an all-time low around the world. The Revolt of the Public analyzes the composition of the public, the nature of authority and legitimacy, and the part played by the perturbing agent: information. A major theme of the book is whether democratic institutions can survive the assaults of a public that at times appears to be at war with any form of organization, if not with history itself.… (more)
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A story of how increased availability and spread of information, through social media, blogs and other internet media, is changing the world, leading to a "slow-motion collision of two modes of organizing life: one hierarchical, industrial, and top-down, the other networked, egalitarian, bottom-up." The first part of the book is good, documenting the above view by going through events such as the Arab spring, Occupy Wall Street, various European protests, in particular in Spain and Italy. Many of these are protests and revolts against the establishment (governments, old media, experts) without a clear program of their own. Indeed often seeming to protest anything. Gurri is afraid of the "nihilism" implied by this. However, shallower analysis later on, e.g. simplistically about whether the US stimulus money "worked" or not, though it is true that the economy is complex and not as predictable as many believe, and repeated, vitriolic attacks on Obama ("sectarian prophet"). Some interesting threads drawn also to Trump, Tsipras and Macron, promising to drain the swamp and being elected on discontent. Not recommended, despite strong recommendation from Noah Smith. http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2019/02/book-review-revolt-of-public-by-marti... ( )
  ohernaes | Mar 9, 2019 |
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Riding a tsunami of information, the public has trampled on the temples of authority in every domain of human activity, everywhere. The Revolt of the Public tells the story of how ordinary people, gifted amateurs networked in communities of interest, have swarmed over the hierarchies of accredited professionals, questioned their methods, and shouted their failures from the digital rooftops. In science, business, media - and, pre-eminently, in politics and government - established elites have lost the power to command attention and set the agenda.The consequences have been revolutionary. Insurgencies enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere have mobilized millions, toppling dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, crushing the ruling Socialist Party in Spain, inspiring "Tea Parties" and "Occupations" in the United States. Trust in political authority stands at an all-time low around the world. The Revolt of the Public analyzes the composition of the public, the nature of authority and legitimacy, and the part played by the perturbing agent: information. A major theme of the book is whether democratic institutions can survive the assaults of a public that at times appears to be at war with any form of organization, if not with history itself.

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