- File Size: 2027 KB
- Print Length: 418 pages
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- Publication Date: June 2, 2014
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00KQMVOPM
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The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium Kindle Edition
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Gurri sees a major axis of conflict between credentialed elites and the uncredentialed public. The elites are government officials, tenured academics, mainstream journalists, etc. Gurri's thesis is that 50 years ago the elites had unique access both to information and to the instruments by which information was disseminated. However, as information became democratized in recent decades, the public is better able to penetrate the defenses of the elites, to perceive the flaws in government, science, and other elite-dominated institutions, and to form movements that revolt against them.
This thesis provides a powerful lens through which to view current events. What I particularly like is the balanced way in which Gurri appraises the two sides of the conflict. He does not romanticize the masses, much less the elites. Instead, he carefully assesses the strategic assets and liabilities of each side, as well as the social benefits and costs of the public revolt.
Throughout the book, Gurri exposes how his mind works. He tells you not only what he thinks, but why and with what degree of confidence. This is atypical for books of this sort, but in my view it adds another positive aspect to this impressive work.
Martin Gurri's The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium offers readers three things:
1) A scrupulous analysis of the sequence of protests occurring around 2011 and thereafter.
2) A very interesting and thought-provoking explanation of the protests positing a conflict between the newly informed public and the old institutions of authority.
3) Many keen insights shedding light on the changes in media, politics and social interactions.
Gurri marks out the common traits in many of the protests he analyses, starting with Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, and moving on to Spain, Israel, USA, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, etc.
We can now observe, and many have experienced, a new type of protest. The rebels are not motivated by oppression, or poverty, or class antagonism. They are not led by a new revolutionary ideology; they have no ideology in the conventional sense. So what causes and nurtures this new type of protest?
Gurri’s answer is: The Fifth Wave of information technology.
The Fifth Wave increases the number of sources of information and decreases barriers to the spread of information. The new information sphere allows the public to learn more about its elites. This growing awareness makes the public much more challenging in relations with its elites. Knowing how authority really works makes it less sacred. Any person in charge is now vulnerable before the public.
The Fifth Wave thus catalyzes the public’s demands and dissolves the sanctity of authority. This gives rise to the revolt of the public.
In his analysis, Gurri uses a mass of factual data collected carefully from around the world. He cements these arrays of factual observations using Walter Lippmann's definition of the public; Ortega y Gasset's notion of the revolt of the masses (where Gurri borrowed his title); Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky's concepts of the Center and the Border; Clay Shirky's reflections on networked collaboration; as well as many other sources. This makes the ideas presented in the book very enriching and open for interpretations and development.
Gurri’s Revolt of the Public is extraordinarily helpful and necessary if we are to understand the present and prepare for what is to come.
Gurri presents the dramatic impact of information technology. He believes this public access to data has almost removed trust in authority, especially government. The 'faith' in political democracy is decreasing and near to disappearing. He wants to prevent this. He believes 'democracy' is the key idea/institution needed. His thesis -
''We are caught between an old world which is decreasingly able to sustain us intellectually and spiritually, maybe even materially, and a new world that has not yet been born'' (685)
He does grasp the information in this statement. The 'old world' that produced the present, was started by men of the scientific revolution, then the Enlightenment along with the German reaction against this with Romanticism. (See Isaiah Berlin) These men understood the 'spiritual' issues at stake. The present does not.
Gurri starts with Kennedy. I think a better starting point was was WW1 and Wilson. (See Albert Jay Nock - ''Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.'')
Chapter 1 Prelude to a Turbulent Age
Chapter 2 Hoder and Wael Ghonim
Chapter 3 My Thesis
Chapter 4 What the Public Is Not
Chapter 5 Phase Change 2011
Chapter 6 A Crisis of Authority
Chapter 7 The Failure of Government
Chapter 8 Nihilism and Democracy
Chapter 9 Choices and Systems
Chapter 10 Finale for Skeptics
Gurri focuses on the year 2011. He sees modernity turning to Nihilism. This seems shortsighted. What about Nitzche? Weimar Germany? Alexis de Tocqueville and his dramatic warnings? Francis Bacon, five hundred years ago, proposing a scientific priesthood? Jacob Burckhardt's criticism of the future in the nineteenth century?
Gurri observes that the tools given to the public empower them. Nevertheless, the ideas that drive the actions are not new. These are centuries old. Gurri compares the current time to the religious wars in the seventeenth century. - ''The closest historical parallel to our time may have been the wars of religion of the seventeenth century. I say this not necessarily because of the chaos and bloodshed of the period, but because every principle was contested. If an educated person of that era were transported to the present, his first question would be, “Who won –Catholics or Protestants?” For us the question has no meaning. Both sides endured. Neither won. Something different evolved. Much the same, I suspect, will occur with the dispute of hierarchy and network.'' (799)
Seems to me Gurri is repeating de Tocqueville in "Democracy in America'' - ''I perceive that we have destroyed those independent beings which were able to cope with tyranny single-handed; but it is the Government that has inherited the privileges of which families, corporations, and individuals have been deprived; the weakness of the whole community has therefore succeeded that influence of a small body of citizens, which, if it was sometimes oppressive, was often conservative.''
One central, overriding political authority, replaces local, family, community free association. Liberty disappears. All look to distant officials, not people they actually know.
''The division of property has lessened the distance which separated the rich from the poor; but it would seem that the nearer they draw to each other, the greater is their mutual hatred, and the more vehement the envy and the dread with which they resist each other's claims to power; the notion of Right is alike insensible to both classes, and Force affords to both the only argument for the present, and the only guarantee for the future.''
De Tocqueville identifies this rebellion as 'envy'. Gurri sees 'nihilism'. Maybe both.
''The poor man retains the prejudices of his forefathers without their faith, and their ignorance without their virtues; he has adopted the doctrine of self-interest as the rule of his actions, without understanding the science which controls it, and his egotism is no less blind than his devotedness was formerly.'' (830) Astounding prescience!
Tocqueville lived the French Revolution and aftermath. The populace did not need cell phones. Christianity replaced a spiritually dead Roman Empire. They did not have printing presses. I think Gurri exaggerates the importance of technology and underestimates the importance of ideas. Nevertheless, he considers both.
Gurri adds to the current debate. It does produce a sense of urgency. The scene of this world is changing.
(See - ''Twilight of Authority'' - by Robert A. Nisbet)