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The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  246 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Riding a tsunami of information, the public has trampled on the temples of authority in every domain of human activity, everywhere. The Revolt of the Public tells the story of how ordinary people, gifted amateurs networked in communities of interest, have swarmed over the hierarchies of accredited professionals, questioned their methods, and shouted their failures from the ...more
Kindle Edition, 362 pages
Published June 2nd 2014
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 ·  246 ratings  ·  51 reviews


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Murtaza
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of the most important achievements of a writer is to accomplish the deceptively challenging task of accurately describing present conditions. It is almost impossible to do this satisfactorily from all angles and anyone who tries is inevitably limited by the aperture of their own worldview and experience. I disagree with some of the conclusions in this book, particularly its estimation of the present level of public nihilism. That said, I feel that Martin Gurri has done perhaps the best job ...more
Sten Tamkivi
This is the must-read book for anyone trying to find patterns in the increasingly online, rapidly shifting and seemingly irreparably polarizing world of modern politics. (Including every concerned Estonian ahead of the March elections). While I was listening to the book still, I found myself bringing it as an example, and recommending to a friend EVERY SINGLE DAY.

The basic construct of Gurri thesis stems from the etymology of the term "authority" from "author" - and explains the dissolution of
...more
Mehrsa
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was very prescient and seemed to foretell the rise of Trump and populism abroad. I don't agree with the thesis, but that doesn't make it a bad book. I read it knowing I would not agree, but still learned a lot. He blames Obama for a lot of the partisan split. Obama and the rise of the information economy. I agree with the latter, but I think politically, it started much earlier. During the Nixon and Reagan eras, there was already a hatred of the elites. Neil Postman writes about how TV ...more
Max Nova
"The Revolt of the Public" is what Tyler Cowen refers to as a "quake book" - I can't see the world the same after reading it. This book is criminally underappreciated, as I write this review it only has 11 ratings on Amazon. Writing in 2014, former CIA analyst Martin Gurri looks out at the world and sees Occupy Wall Street, Brexit, and the Arab Spring and wonders if these populist uprisings are isolated incidents or part of a larger trend (the 2019 edition has an afterword on Trump). The ...more
Joseph
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Stop me if you've heard this before: "The internet is changing everything, the old institutions can't keep up, they'll soon be swept away and replaced by a new order of liberté, égalité, fraternité."

Well that's not Martin Gurri's thesis, but on a first pass it smells a lot like it. Gurri doesn't really view himself as a prophet or a futurist - he's a lot more concerned with attempting to diagnose trends that are happening now vs. the result of those trends. And what are those trends? A
...more
Carl Rannaberg
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carl by: Sten Tamkivi
A good book which explains the effect technology and especially internet as communication medium has had on our societies and politics. Martin Gurri explains that public unrests and political turmoil in recent years are caused by the fundamental differences between the networked nature of public and hierarchical nature of authority.
Public has always been a mesh of people, ideas and agendas but before the internet it has been on a local scale. Internet has enabled these local level networks of
...more
Csabimir
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a purely amazing book, which everyone should at least once read. Especially if someone wants to understand the reasons behind our current political phenomena: why they happened, and why are happening. The author gives remarkable insights, actually very logical insights, which were in front of us all along, but we haven't noticed.
The only reason I gave 4/5, is because its structure: the author analyzes the current political situation from several different angles, but at the end of each
...more
Adam S. Rust
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martin Gurri's "Revolt of the Public" is a timely book reflecting on the impact of the internet on political culture. The book argues that the concept of political and intellectual authority is an artifact of information scarcity. With the rise of the internet and information abundance, authority as source of political and institutional power has taken a beating and has led to the rise of a variety of movements rejecting the current state of affairs.

These movements are described by Gurri as
...more
Sebastian
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I was confused by the Occupy protestors in 2011. There were tens or maybe hundreds of groups camping in different cities through cold winter months, but I never could quite figure out the specific policy changes they wanted to see. I remember having similar thoughts when the Tea Partiers were popular in 2009, and with the Women's March in 2017. There are a lot of these ill-defined popular movements. The Yellow Vests in France might be another good example.

In The Revolt of the Public, Gurri
...more
Michael Kraitsberg
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Nice and well intended description of certain current global trends.
Still, the analysis lucks historical, philosophical or any other depth, when everything is assumed to be caused by a certain IT advances. And about the future the author confesses to be as clueless as anybody else.
Annie  Ke
Positives first. Gurri presents a thesis that stood the test of time between 2014 and now: the internet gave us access to more information than ever, destroying the authority of the governing elite and encouraging nihilism. Nihilism in this book is the mindset "everything is fucked up so I might as well destroy it all." Gun violence, both the Obama and Trump elections, and the rise of the far right and Antifa are all nihilism in action according to Gurri.

I mostly agree with Gurri's thesis, but
...more
Peter
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's shocking to me that this book isn't more popular. It's a necessary book for anyone trying to understand the failure of authority in the modern world. Weirdly published by the Stripe Press, the book has a simple thesis: modern government claims too much authority, and it can't achieve that ambition. Worse, as the elites lose their monopoly on information, these overreaching promises become trivially falsifiable. This leads to a vortex, making it harder and harder to build positive visions ...more
Jordan Peacock
Thesis is solid. execution uneven.
Victor
This is the most penetrating and even-minded analysis of a social epoch that I've read since Tocqueville's Democracy in America.
Kevin Whitaker
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: policy
The simple thesis of this book: 21st century information technology enabled the amateur “public” to break power of old political hierarchies. I picked this up on a few good recommendations from writers I like, and the big idea is very compelling, but I found most of it hard to get through. The style annoyed me in an academic-but-trying-to-also-be-something-else way, but it's very prescient for a 2014 book.

Three things I learned:
1. The decline of "authority" can be seen in our company names
...more
David Wunderlich
I found this book somewhat frustrating. I think the overarching thesis about people been disillusioned with elites and using social media to organize various kinds of protest against them is broadly correct.

However, there were a thousand details in the book that were either wrong, misleading, incomplete, or otherwise less than completely accurate. A lot of ground the book covers is outside my area of expertise, but when it did get into places where I have some knowledge, there were enough
...more
James Giammona
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really great framework (from 2014!) that gives a framework to understand the erosion of legitimacy and authority of elite institutions around the world from the arab spring, to climate science, to occupy wall street to the rise of extreme politicians around the world.

Basically, this is caused by the breakdown of the elite's information monopoly by the internet.
Nimrod
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Important reading. Gurri's theory is an exceptional and in many ways echos the ideas of T.A.Z, but in a more contemporary approach.
Juan Cantú
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unpretentious. Encompassing. Honest. Well structured. That's what I can say about this massively underappreciated book. This is that hidden gem you stumble upon that you can read and all of a sudden start to make sense out of this overwhelmingly inexplicable reality.

The fact that this is a re-hash of a 2014 book makes it all the more impressive. Here, one snippet. He literally predicted Donald Trump in 2014:

"After [Obama's] defeat in 2010, the president decided on a strategy that placed the
...more
Ryan
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book did more to open my eyes to new views of structure of modern day events than any in recent history. While it could be seen as an attack on elites, it's more of a detailing of their fall, and an excoriation of the public for not understanding how to replace the system they are tearing down, or even largely even caring to answer that question.

Have elites fallen because they were corrupt? No, they always have been. So has nearly everyone else. There's no great evidence that this has
...more
Lee Barry
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I was reading "William S. Burroughs And The Cult of Rock 'n' Roll" contemporaneously, I realized we now actually live in a Burroughsian dystopia (Blade Runner: a movie), but much more realistically nihilistic. There's an odd circularity between radicalism in the avant-garde and rock 'n' roll which emerged in the 50s and the current shades of political anarchy. A walk through any affluent city is now like dystopian cinema. Over time, comments such as "it was like something I saw in a movie" ...more
Gideon Kalischer
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't read a lot of political theory, so I cannot tell how strange or unique this book is. But I found the arguments fascinating and persuasive. The writing is very clear and not overly academic. You don't need to strain to follow complex, dense language. Gurri is also very modest in his claims and repeatedly warns the reader of the unknown variables.

The world is a complex place and it's difficult to prove causation or our own ability to control outcomes. Information availability has exploded.
...more
Chris Campano
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The “fifth wave” of communication technology is revolutionizing the world. From uprisings in Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street to the election of Donald Trump, the flow of information between groups and the ease with which disjointed communities of people can organize poses a new threat to institutionalized power structures. Gurri provides a unique, prescient perspective as to why a (seemingly) nihilistic fervor has gripped so many people around the world. Dozens of disparate movements all ...more
John Kaye
I read the updated version, with an additonal chapter on Trump and Brexit (mostly). The thesis is simple: today's social media has caused a breakdown in the way information is managed (or not managed), and the existing systems are finding nearly impossible to respond. The book, I think, would claim to be 'positive' rather than 'normative', and most of the time Gurri goes out of his way to point out that he isn't going to give answers, but is just describing, with commentary. As he says himself, ...more
Alex
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bit of a rambling book that suffers somewhat from its author’s libertarian inclinations. And yet it nails an important fundamental shift in the public and political life that underpins many of our recent upheavals. Changes in the control of the information flow - especially thanks to the internet - empowered the masses and revealed that our elites are not particularly special. The elites (political, cultural, scientific and other authorities) are now more readily observed and much more easy to ...more
Luis Ontiveros
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gurri's thesis is extremely thought-provoking, even if at times some chapters drag on for too long. This book gives voice to something I would guess many people can already feel but may not be able to pinpoint. It is somewhat difficult to summarize this book, as his thesis deals with some terms which get explained in the first few chapters, but essentially, the origin of most of the mass protests which have occurred during the 2010s can be traced back to an explosion in information available to ...more
Giff Zimmerman
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While I didn’t necessarily agree with every assertion and analysis in this book, Gurri’s thesis is very thought-provoking and has a lot of explanatory power. Basically, Gurri argues that current internet technology and social media has unleashed both a flood of information, and the ability of “the public” to intercommunicate among themselves, which in turn has empowered that ill-defined “public” to essentially ignore and/or thwart the traditional “elites” – political, academic, cultural, social, ...more
Jim Rossi
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
For me, this book started out as profound and fascinating and I recommend taking a look for that reason. I read it as research for my own upcoming book on Echo Chambers. That being said, the author lost me about 200-300 pages in. The author's a great thinker, more iconoclastic and illuminating than authors I've read on similar topics like Franklin Foer, Malcolm Gladwell, and related mainstream media cardboard cutouts, but I think this book would have benefited from a strong editor to make it a ...more
Nathan Taylor
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent analysis of how digital media has led the public to revolt from industrial democracy

Industrial Age democracy promised top down infallibility, and Industrial Age media broadcast its support. But digital age media is available to all, and by casting doubt on elites has drawn the public towards nihilism.

If you want to understand media and politics, this is a great place to start.
Gabriel
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Martin Gurri saw it coming. He had a name for the current political situation before any of us noticed this time was different. Having finished the book in 2014, his only mistake so far has been his own underestimation of how fast the events would unfold. Gurri is a the scientist who discovers the the cause of the disease, but not the cure. With some luck, this book will encourage us to find the medicine that cures our ills.
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“What happens when the mediators lose their legitimacy—when the shared stories that hold us together are depleted of their binding force? That’s easy to answer. Look around: we happen. The mirror in which we used to find ourselves faithfully reflected in the world has shattered. The great narratives are fracturing into shards. What passes for authority is devolving to the political war-band and the online mob—that is, to the shock troops of populism, left and right. Deprived of a legitimate authority to interpret events and settle factual disputes, we fly apart from each other—or rather, we flee into our own heads, into a subjectivized existence. We assume ornate and exotic identities, and bear them in the manner of those enormous wigs once worn at Versailles. Here, I believe, is the source of that feeling of unreality or post-truth so prevalent today. Having lost faith in authority, the public has migrated to the broken pieces of the old narratives and explanations: shards of reality that deny the truth of all the others and often find them incomprehensible.” 0 likes
“The revolt of the public will not necessarily usher in an authoritarian age. It does not necessarily foster populism. It is not necessarily destructive of liberal democracy. The revolt of the public, as I envision the thing, is a technology-driven churning of new people and classes, a proliferation and confusion of message and noise, utopian hopes and nihilistic rage, globalization and disintegration, taking place in the unbearable personal proximity of the web and at a fatal distance from political power. Every structure of order is threatened—yes. Nihilism at the level of whole societies, in the style of ISIS, is a possible outcome. But no particular system is favored or disadvantaged—and nothing is ordained.” 0 likes
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