The revolution will not be disintermediated

I’m on the road this week, University of Manchester, BBC North, and the Festival of Economics in Bristol. My book companion is Rebecca Solnit’s

, a collection of essays. It’s as brilliant as any fan of her writing would expect.

[amazon_image id=”1595341986″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness[/amazon_image]

One essay, The Butterfly and the Boiling Point, is about the many little causes of popular rebellions that accumulate until, suddenly, large-scale protest erupts on the streets and in public squares. The title alludes to the the idea in complexity theory that the merest flap of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can change the path of a hurricane on the other side of the globe. Small causes turn into big consequences. But in thinking about political movements, there are many butterflies and their flaps have no consequences until there are enough separate little causes that the boiling point is reached.

Solnit discusses why popular rebellions in 2011 happened where they did – Tunisia, Egypt – but could not happen in the US. “It is remarkable how in other countries, people will simply one day stop believing in the regime that had, until then, ruled them.” Fear evaporates. There is a sudden shift in consciousness. She argues that it could be because the US lacks “symbolically charged public spaces.” The capital city isn’t a centre, and many other cities lack centres. “Revolution is an urban phenomenon,” she writes. “It’s all very well to organize on Facebook and update on Twitter, but these are only preludes. …. You need to be together in body for only then are you truly the public with the full power that a public can possess.”

The revolution will not be disintermediated?

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