Gal Beckerman

The Quiet Before
  • The Quiet Before

  • 'The Quiet Before is a fascinating and important exploration of how ideas that change the world incubate and spread.' Steven Pinker

    'Filled with insightful analysis and colourful storytelling...
    Rarely does a book give you a new way of looking at social change. This one does.' Walter Isaacson

    Why do some radical ideas make history while others founder?

    We tend to think of revolutions as loud: frustrations and demands shouted in the streets. But the ideas fuelling them have traditionally been conceived in much quieter spaces, in the small, secluded corners where a vanguard can whisper among themselves, imagine alternate realities, and deliberate over how to get there. This extraordinary book is a search for those spaces, over centuries and across continents, and a warning that they might soon go extinct.

    The Quiet Before is a grand panorama, stretching from the seventeenth century correspondence that jumpstarted the scientific revolution to the groundswell of the Chartists, the liberation movement on the Gold Coast and the underground network of samizdat publications in Soviet Russia - even the encrypted apps used by epidemiologists fighting the pandemic in the shadow of an inept administration. Beckerman shows that defining social movements-from decolonization to feminism-thrive when they are given the time and space to gestate.

    Now, Facebook and Twitter are replacing these productive, private spaces with monolithic platforms that are very public and endlessly networked. Why did the Arab Spring fall apart and Occupy Wall Street never gain traction? Has Black Lives Matter lived up to its full potential? Beckerman reveals what this new social media ecosystem lacks - everything from patience to focus - and offers a recipe for growing radical ideas again.

    Lyrical and profound, The Quiet Before looks to the past to help us imagine a different future.

Gal Beckerman is a writer and editor at The New York Times Book Review and a regular contributor to the New Republic and the Wall Street Journal. He has a PhD in media studies from Columbia University and is the author of the award-winning When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone, which was named a best book of the year by the New Yorker and the Washington Post. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

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