‘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?
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 imagine alternate realities. 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 jump-started the scientific revolution to 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.
Today, we are replacing these productive, private spaces with monolithic platforms. 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 still needs – 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.