Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action, by Helen Margetts, Peter John, Scott Hale and Taha Yasseri. Princeton University Press. 304pp. £19.95.
Whenever asked to comment on contemporary events, it’s usually historians, rather than social scientists, who tend to suffer from what one might call an epistemological twitch: they strive to demonstrate that what is happening now has already – mutatis mutandis and with all the specificities of the epoch – happened before. A good part of their intellectual prowess is devoted to uncover this sometimes uncomfortable truth, so effectively camouflaged under the patina of the ‘new’. This has a collateral effect: the
underlying, unobserved assumption that – whatever the phenomenon being analysed – its deceitful novelty is bound to beach like an agonising whale onto the ever-suspect, ideological shores of ‘it’s always been like this’, or, ‘it happened before’.
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