The new protest movements are paying a high price for their anti-institutional ethos

Ivan Krastev writes: Shortly after Louis Napoleon’s 1851 coup in Paris, five of the greatest political minds in Europe hustled to their writing desks to capture the meaning of the events.

The five were very different people. Karl Marx was a Communist. Pierre Joseph Proudhon an anarchist. Victor Hugo, the most popular French poet of his time, a romantic. And Alexis de Tocqueville and Walter Bagehot were liberals. Their interpretations of the coup were as different as their philosophies. But in the manner of the man who mistook his wife for a hat, they all mistook the end of Europe’s three-year revolutionary wave for its beginning.

Has the Western media made the same mistake in recent years? Are its interpretations of the global wave of popular protests — spontaneous, leaderless, nonviolent, which Thomas Friedman memorably described as the rise of the “square people” — similarly off-base? It seems so: Just take the stunning and unexpected victory of the governing Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., in Turkey’s parliamentary elections last week. [Continue reading…]

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