From New York to Istanbul, and Rio to Tunis, waves of social unrest have been sweeping across the world. Whatever they are called – Occupy Wall Street in New York, the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia or the Arab Spring beyond, and the Salad Uprising in Brazil – the mass mobilisations share several common features.
Espousing public discontent over a range of sometimes unrelated, even conflicting issues, they were driven largely by new communication technologies coupled with an abiding distrust of government policies.
Unlike the formal, planned protests of earlier times, the latest ones are, for the most part, informal and relatively spontaneous. As such, scientists say, they reflect a shift away from conventional social hierarchies towards what some call leaderless networks.