Posts tagged ‘revolution’

Review: ‘Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions,’ by Paul Mason

By , 10 February, 2012, No Comment

Paul Mason, the Economics Editor of the BBC’s Newsnight program, has a new book out. In it, he argues that the myriad forms of protest we’ve seen over the last year – the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, student protests, protests against austerity budgets in Europe, are linked, part of a global revolution. Over at my Forbes blog, I’ve got a long review of the book.

The links are, according to Mason:

1. “the near collapse of free-market capitalism,” and in particular the opportunities it presents to the young;

2. rapid demographic growth creating a “youth bulge,” where young people come to represent a growing percentage of a country’s overall population, compounding and amplifying the impact of point 1;

3. growth in educational attainment, which Mason uses to argue that the young people sans opportunity are those who played by the rules and feel their economic loss more acutely as a result. He calls them “graduates with no future”;

4. “an upswing in technical innovation, a surge in desire for individual freedom and a change in human consciousness about what freedom means.” Technology and individualism, Mason says, allow protests to assume a networked structure than can overpower traditional hierarchies.

I’ve been skeptical of this argument since it first appeared on Mason’s blog a year ago.

The three core problems Mason identifies – youth unemployment, the youth demographic bulge, and the diminishing returns on education- are real ones. But in Mason’s account, they are depicted as three components of the same, global problem. That’s simply not accurate.

To learn exactly what’s wrong with Mason’s economic assumptions, and how a more rigorous look at the economic data undermines his argument, read the whole thing.

Confusion in Foggy Bottom

By , 10 February, 2011, 1 Comment

An update on U.S. policy re: Egypt over at Foreign Exchange:

And today, I saw and heard a very simple explanation: there is, after the violence of last Wednesday and Thursday, a commitment to organic Egyptian democracy in some top quarters (notably the White House), and a commitment to a rapid technocratic transition in others (notably the Pentagon), and no capacity or mechanism to efficiently share information, forge a consensus across departments, and coordinate a message. The State Department, where I’m writing this, has the unfortunate task of representing that to the world.

It’s a common critique of this Administration—indecision combined with multiple centers of power—but it happens to be true. If there isn’t an official U.S. statement tonight, it’s because there isn’t an official U.S. position right now. In part, that is a reaction to a speech from Mubarak that came—according to both intelligence and diplomatic sources—as a surprise to the U.S. But it is not clear, based on the messages today and conversations with officials while I waited for the briefing-that-never-came, that there was a coordinated U.S. position before the speech either.

Read it all here.

Dust Settles in Tunisia

By , 17 January, 2011, 1 Comment

A second post on the Tunisian turmoil at Foreign Exchange:

Six members of Ben Ali’s government–technocrats, not core political advisors–have retained their posts or moved into new and equally senior ones, including the President, Prime Ministership and the ministries of defense and foreign affairs; three opposition leaders, from the centre-left have been granted minor cabinet posts; they are joined by a handful of trade unionists, lawyers and civil society figures. The new cabinet has committed itself–in addition to organizing the elections–to lifting the ban on NGOs, including the Tunisian Human Rights League, and on freedom of information and expression, or the lifting of Ben Ali’s censorship regime.

Here’s what’s not in the announcement: the three most radical opposition voices–the secular leftist academic Moncef Marzouki’s party, Hamma Hammami’s hard-left communist worker’s party, and the Islamist Ennadha led by Rached Gannouchi–were not invited to the talks. These three parties were banned from Ben Ali’s regime, while the three parties brought into the interim coalition were always considered by Ben Ali as ‘legitimate’ opposition. Under his dictatorship, to be legitimate was meaningless, as there were no free elections to contest. But carrying over that distinction–picking and choosing your political opponents–into a post-revolt government that plans to transition Tunisia to democracy is problematic, especially when those parties command such large support among the demographics–the young, the students, the poor–who were in the front lines of the revolt.

Read the rest here.