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on 8 March 2012
I only know Mason's work since he became BBC Newsnight's Economics Editor but this book is an excellent addition to his broadcast work. Mason has an ability not only to penetrate and analyse the economic issues that stirred up the recent revolutions, but he has an understanding of politics, sociology and technology. In this relatively short and accessible book, he is able to compare revolutions in previous decades and centuries and highlight the similarities with the Arab Spring and Occupy movements in the West.

Other people have gone into more detail, but I would just add that if you want a good understanding of why it happened, then buy this book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 December 2014
This is a complex and thoughtful, yet at times in-your-face, explanation of what the author saw happening and why he believes it was happening in 2011.

As youth movements merged with legions of suddenly unemployed middle-class people on the streets of Greece, while millions living in extreme poverty occupied squares in Egypt and global capitalism protestors occupied parts of London and New York, clearly a time of rapid change is upon us.

Mason was at times on the front line as a journalist covering a street riot, nodding greetings to other journalists with gas masks in between attending debates in rooms full of students who had no hope of getting jobs. I was surprised by how many of the young people he mixed with had been reading social theorists from many countries. If your degree is in social theory, just what job do you expect to get? However having been sold the idea that they should take a loan to pay for several years of studies in order to get a good job, they now find that the banks have collapsed and they still owe the banks money but there are no jobs. Globalism is partly to blame as jobs have been exported to cheaper countries.

So linking up smartly by means of new communications and social sites, the protestors have made their voices heard and in some cases crashed governments. I'm also surprised that Mason never mentions the obvious fore-runner of the mass protest - the flashmob.

Then Mason goes to look at the slum dwellers in those cheaper developing countries. An eight foot square underground room is home to two adults and four children, who have next to nothing but use a computer café down the slum lane. They do the cheap jobs, so the nation's corrupt economy has come to depend on them, insanitary as their living conditions are. One billion people currently live like this, paying for water purchases. (See The Price Of Thirst by Karen Piper.) As they have not been used to paying bills, the power companies won't supply even rehoused families. Mason predicts that this number will smartly reach two billion. Well then, the obvious route would be to empower women not to have to have four or more children. He doesn't mention this at all. However with solar panels and smartphones, we can hope that the message will reach them.

Overall the chapters are at times an odd fit, obviously written up individually as the author travelled and referencing his blog and twitter feeds as well as those of others. Yes, the world is fast changing but we are seeing general backlash against giant corporations not paying taxes, while many jobless Greeks have left their deeply corrupt country to work in Germany. So the work could do with updating while at times seeming stuck in the distant French or Russian past. Certainly this is an interesting read for anyone who wants to be better informed, and for a look at journalism on the front line.
Try teaming this with: The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom by Joel Simon
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on 25 March 2012
Paul Mason has become well known as the economics editor of Newsnight. In this book he explores the causes and consequences of the great unrest, around the world; from Cairo to Athens, Wall Street and Westminster to Manila. It is a ranging, lively reportage and insightful analysis on economics, history, techology and philosophy. Highly recommended.
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on 15 January 2012
Paul Mason's "Why It's All Kicking Off Everywhere" is an equally ambitious attempt to provide a journalistic account of the underpinnings behind the revolutions and protest movements of the past few years. The book is an extended edition of a blog post that went viral and Mason is positive about the role of technology, what he defines as his `technological-determinist approach', particularly `social media's power to present unmediated reality'. Indeed his main argument is that modern technology has allowed `networked individuals' to overcome collective institutions which are unfit for purpose, in essence that `a network can usually defeat a hierarchy'. These networks of organisation led to security services in Tunisia and Egypt being bypassed by protestors.

Mason argues that `we are in the middle of a revolution: something wider than a pure political overthrow and narrower than the classic social revolutions of the twentieth century'. He sees the ingredients for this revolution as a combination of the `radicalized, secular-leaning youth; a repressed workers' movement with considerable social power; uncontrollable social media and the restive urban poor'. Although global in nature there are significant differences in its success, in UK for example there has been a `crisis' of protestors as `students got wrapped up in exams; the trade unions began negotiations over pensions; the small group of activists behind UK Uncut went into a defensive huddle; and the anarchists engaged in mutual recrimination'.

However the book poses more questions than it does answers and can be guilty of trying a bit too hard to be in touch with 21st century living in Mason's half-baked attempt to accredit Twitter users and constant reference to iPods and Lady Gaga. Yet beneath this enjoyable journalistic veneer is the critical heart of Mason's argument that while technology has allowed empowered individuals to overthrow authoritarian governments, globalisation itself may fail as the economics of the financial crisis of 2008 continue to unravel, something better explained in his earlier book `Meltdown'. Both Ross and Mason's accounts are important contributions to the new age of thinking that is rapidly emerging as a consequence of the crisis of globalised capitalism.

@jamesdenselow
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on 4 March 2012
This is an out-standing book, building on a good blog (which impressed me at the time) and one I have recommended to a lot of people since.

It is perhaps most thought-provoking thing I've read in a while

Linking the events of 2008 financial crash, Tahir Square, Los Indignados, London Riots and with well-informed references to 1848, 1789 French Revolution and the pre-war 1900-1913 periods this has historic depth, economic understanding and is astonishingly thought-provoking.

I had wondered why economic crises wasn't leading to a political change, and this addressees that.

It also ties in the role of technology (Twitter has an impact analagous to railways in 1848 revolutions)

Highly recommended
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on 5 March 2013
A great read and Paul Mason correctly classifies this as journalism, but it is reporting from the front line of major changes occurring across the world. Most interesting in so many ways, I took 2 pages of notes of things to follow up.
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on 9 February 2012
Its hard to imagine a short book doing a better job capturing the essence of the global post-crises protest movement. Mason is so sympathetic he seems to have created a new hybrid form - about 5% tweats and 95% traditional book, with frequent use of precis and change of focus. This keeps the writing fast paced and allows coverage of a topic that is vast in scope. There are vivid sketches of what life is like for the poorest 20% in Egypt, the Philippines, the US, here in London and elsewhere. Mason discusses the various networks folk use to organise their protests and to build multiple and often transient webs of relationships. He describes the characteristics of the different sort of protestors, broadly divided into students, workers and urban poor, stressing how many of the youths are very similar in manner and dress whether they're from Europe, the Middle East or the States. There are often little tweat size quotes to keep it real and let them speak with their own voice. While always sympathetic, Mason dosent seem to glamorise or distort, he trys to relay the reality of whats happening as faithfully as he can. As a (very) part time member of Occupy I can confirm Masons authenticity, several of informal leaders mention being in touch with him and he's always spoke of highly - his name seems to come up more than all other journalists combined.

This isnt just a book of street journalism - Mason makes illuminating comparisons with historical eruptions of global protest like 1848 , the waxing of anarchy in the early 20th century (mostly ended by WWI) and 1968. He also talks about the intellectual influences - the likes of Marx, Focult, Debord and about a dozen more - discussing how at some level they effect everyone involved in the protest movement, including members who have no interest in any theory that cant be condensed to a tweat. There's coverage of the two contemporary leading thinkers who Mason considers have grasped the meaning of the networked age - Clay Shirky and Manuel Castelles.

The book has a few flaws. Masons seems mostly blind both to the dark side of the network and to the positive aspects of hierarchy. He describes their interaction purely as opposing forces. They dont have to be, in fact history suggests there has to be some degree of harmonisation to achieve desirable outcomes. While its true the network can bring down the hierarchy, the long term effects are invariably increased oppression. I may expand this criticism in a comment, dont want to clog this review with too much of my own speculation. Strongly recommend this authentic book for anyone looking to deepen and broaden their understanding of the ongoing, world shaking post- crises protest movement.
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on 6 February 2013
This book is a great way in to the Arabian spring and the riots that was caused by it, told from a ground- level perspective. Most recommended
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on 6 May 2012
This is an important book and I strongly recommend it. It is very well written and effortlessly readable, but also delves into very serious stuff about the structure of the world as it currently is. The basic theme is inequality, and the effect that has when things get economically tough. One of the important points that @Paulmasonnews has brought out, is that the protests and `revolutions' we have seen over the last few years are not just the `normal' rumblings of the economic cycle. This time the evidence (presented in the book) suggests that we are probably at an important decision point for the world; one akin to some of the most world shaping points in the past. The sense delivered by the book is that the current Masters of the Universe are desperately trying to hold the current World Order together, but they can't. This follows on from @Paulmasonnews previous book, Meltdown Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed, which documented the financial crises of 2008 and forwards.
But it looks like the financial crises, although very serious, were just a catalysis for what might come next. It's as if the world has woken up from a complacent slumber to realise that its hopes and dreams are empty, except for the lucky, mega-rich few. The politicians of the world don't grasp this. They are not leading, because the new situation is outside of their understanding. The book doesn't suggest solutions. It documents what has happened and attempts to explain why it has happened now, but for me one of the important aspects is the effect that social media opens up - which is unpredictable emergent behaviour. Although the book doesn't propose solutions, it does demand that the reader thinks hard about what they might be. For example, is inequality an inherent part of the current world system? What sustainable alternatives are there to liberal capitalism? Although scientific advances are important (and we scientists must strive for them) can they be enough to reach an equitable equilibrium?
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on 6 February 2012
I'm not sure how Paul Mason managed to pack so much reportage into the last year or so but the result is a brilliant summary of what is happening in all the World's flashpoints that we hear about in the news daily. Reading it has really enhanced my understanding of what is motivating the events currently going on.
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