Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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A new era of global unrest

Max Fisher and Amanda Taub write:

It’s not your imagination, and the last few months are not an outlier: Mass protests are on the rise globally.

They’ve been growing more common, year over year, since the end of World War II, now reaching an unprecedented level of frequency.

And if it might seem difficult to find a common thread — anti-corruption rallies in Lebanon, separatist demonstrations in Spain, pro-democracy marches in Hong Kong, protests against inequality in Chile and over election results in Bolivia, to name just the most recent — that’s not a coincidence.

Because this is all being driven by more than just the proximate causes of each individual uprising. The world is changing in ways that make people likelier to seek sweeping political change by taking to the streets.

Before we explain those changes and how they have created an era of global unrest, there’s one other trend you should know about.

Protests are also becoming much, much likelier to fail.

Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change got it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s.

In the mid-2000s, that trend suddenly reversed. Worldwide, protesters’ success rate has since plummeted to only 30 percent, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist who called the decline “staggering.”

“Something has really shifted,” Ms. Chenoweth, who studies civil unrest, told us. [Continue reading…]

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