Beginning in 2011, there was a rapid shift in the ways people associated with the knowledge economy talked about “social justice” and engaged with “social justice” issues. Professionals in fields like tech, finance, education, journalism, arts, entertainment, design, and consulting (and students who aspired to join their ranks) grew much more politically “radical” over the last 10 years, and increasingly intolerant of dissent. The shifts were especially pronounced on matters pertaining to identity (above all, race, gender, and sexuality).

Much of the public discussion of the “Great Awokening” has focused on “vibes” and unrepresentative anecdotes. However, as I illustrate in my forthcoming book, it’s possible to measure the changes that have taken place among knowledge professionals in a more systematic way. More recently, though, many of the same types of data that help substantiate the significant transformation in discourse and norms that took place after 2011 suggest that the “Great Awokening” has run its course.

From 2011 on, there was a notable surge in protest activity, concentrated in knowledge-economy hubs and driven by knowledge-economy professionals, beginning with Occupy Wall Street, continuing through the anti-Trump #Resistance, and culminating with the 2020 turmoil following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.