Newsnight's Paul Mason is, by common consent, one of the most switched-on commentators on the global wave of social unrest that has emerged in the wake of the financial crisis. His recent blogpost, Twenty reasons why its kicking off everywhere, has deservedly been getting plenty of recommendations on twitter, etc.
I though this point was particularly interesting:
The weakness of organised labour means there's a changed relationship between the radicalized middle class, the poor and the organised workforce. The world looks more like 19th century Paris - heavy predomination of the "progressive" intelligentsia, intermixing with the slum-dwellers at numerous social interfaces (cabarets in the 19C, raves now); huge social fear of the excluded poor but also many rags to riches stories celebrated in the media (Fifty Cent etc); meanwhile the solidaristic culture and respectability of organized labour is still there but, as in Egypt, they find themselves a "stage army" to be marched on and off the scene of history.
Mason's picture of 19th century Paris holds more generally for what might be called the pre-industrial left. Geoff Eley provides a useful description of this heritage in his history of the left, Forging Democracy: