Leader: A year of living dangerously

According to the philosopher Slavoj Žižek - don't miss his essay on Shakespeare's Coriolanus in our Critics section on page 48 - we are "living in the end times", when everything can seem to be in flux and the foundations beneath our feet are crumbling. This has been a year of turmoil, from the initial hope and later disappointments of the Arab spring to the English summer riots, and from the eurozone and sovereign debt crises to the street protests in Russia against the corruption of Vladimir Putin and his crony elite. It feels at times as if we are suspended between the old world of credit-fuelled consumption and debt dependency and a new world order that is taking shape by the day, the engine of which is the turbocharged growth of China. Starting on page 28, we review this strange and disturbing year in pictures, beginning with the unforgettable scenes of destruction that followed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March.