1. At an individual level, protest and unrest is U-shaped with respect to job prospects. Young people will take to the streets if they have no hope of a job - as they did in 1981 - because the have nothing to lose. And they might rebel if full employment makes them confident of getting a job anyway, as the soixant-huitards did. It is at intermediate levels of prospects that protest is risky. Nobody wants to make trouble if doing so costs them the chance of a job at Goldman Sachs.
2.Revolutions tend to happen not when conditions are bad, but when there's a big gap (pdf) between actual conditions and aspirations.But there's no such gap now, because aspirations are low. Of course, there are alternatives to our existing arrangements, but none seem widely popular.
3. There's scepticism about what collective action can achieve, and as a result people think the way out of austerity is through their own efforts - an idea which our political class endorses by celebrating "strivers."
It would be tempting to think this is another example of the performativity of "neoliberalism"; it doesn't just claim to describe the world, but helps create it.
But I'm not sure of this. Put it this way. If I were to ask: "What has collective action actually achieved in our lifetime?" my parents and grandparents could point to the creation of the welfare state and to trades unions' role in raising wages. But how can the under-40s reply? Looking at recent history suggests that an aversion to political action - either parliamentary or extra-parliamentary - has a sound empirical basis. And I say this with sorrow.