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

Author: Martin Gurri
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by blueyes   2020-11-16
One of the most interesting aspects in Turchin's hypothesis is the notion of counter-elites: those who are groomed for power and then excluded from it, who wreak their vengeance by turning against the existing hierarchy. The Atlantic article cites Trump as one example, which is plausible.

The tech industry is a better example. Tech cultivates counter-elites who essentially reframe many of the structures of society. This goes back to a point made by Peter Thiel (classic counter elite Stanford-trained lawyer cum entrepreneur), who advocates abandoning the tournament in which there can be only one winner (traditional hierarchies), and embarking on greenfield projects. HN readers will be aware of Thiel's many other counter-elite activities, which range from taking down Gawker to challenging traditional academia to backing seasteading.

One might argue that tech absorbs the counter-elite in ways that are initially useful to the powers that be, but ultimately fatal to them. We started with the Internet, and ended with the destruction of traditional media. We started with "digital cash" and ended with the erosion of the Fed.

Another book that speaks to this is Martin Gurri's "The revolt of the public" (from Stripe Press!), which argues that gradual breakdown of liberal democracies, and other forms of revolt like the Arab Spring, result from a new "information sphere" created by social media and the Internet. The public is rejecting the control and authority of the existing elites, now that other narratives are available and can spread easily.

Gurri does not cite Turchin, but he mentions similar historical trends, including the privileged children of the middle class confronted with high unemployment, who lead movements like Spain's indignados and Occupy Wall Street.

Many revolutions are revolutions of the upper-middle class disappointed with its own prospects. I would count the American and French revolutions among those.

by murat124   2019-07-05
The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium by Martin Gurri.