Egyptian riot police during clashes in Cairo, January 2011.
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

According to many commentators, especially those with left-wing inclinations, we are living through an era of political protest unprecedented in its radical militancy. The influential British journalist Paul Mason, for instance, argued in his 2012 book, Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere, that the Arab Spring of 2011 was only one of many acts in a “global revolution” that is “here to stay.” Riots in particular are allegedly becoming more common. Alain Badiou, arguably the preeminent French philosopher working today, wrote in 2012 that we are living through “a time of riots,” a “global popular uprising” that marks nothing less than a “rebirth of History,” following the “end of history” first theorized by political scientist Francis Fukuyama in 1989.

This notion, far from being a product of the heady events of 2011–12, continues to hold sway today. In 2016, the journalist and English professor Joshua Clover published Riot. Strike. Riot., heralding a “new era of uprisings.”

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