We live in a time of widespread protest. Experts point out that, as we move into the 21st century, we are becoming a “social movement society.” As a cultural sign of this, in 2011 Time magazine crowned “The Protester” as “Person of the Year.”1
Not only are social movements growing and spreading, they are evolving, becoming transnational, and moving beyond individual grievances to make large-scale claims for the development of a more equitable civil society.
Sahan Savas Karatasli, a historical sociologist focusing on the evolution of capitalism and social movements, finds that the frequency and geographical spread of social movements today are comparable to those during the period of world revolutions of the early 1900s. He recently writes, in an article aptly titled, “The world is in a revolutionary moment—how can the global left be a serious player?”
Although we do not talk about the rise of social movements from below as much as we talk about the rise of the Global Right and the authoritarian turn, the rapid rise of conservative and reactionary forces also demonstrates that we are living in an extraordinary era in terms of social unrest from below.
Further, certain images are increasingly associated with these protests, such as the Joker (Batman’s nemesis) who is a modern-day version of Lewis Hyde’s trickster, the one who subverts.2 There is also Guy Fawkes, who led a failed coup against the English parliament in 1605, made famous by the character V in the 2006 cult film V for Vendetta, who wore a mask of his face.3