I'm not sure that bullies have become more prevalent in society, it's just that they're highlighted more and they have a greater reach. Before 2000 or so, a kid could get home and escape school bullying, now he has to shut himself off from the internet as well to avoid it. At school, I was a bit of a late developer so was an obvious target for bullies, that's where I developed my utter intolerance for them and my refusal to ever let them win with me. I see two problems with school-age bullying, the first problem is the schools who are unwilling to stop it, problem two is the parents who are just as bad. I remember at school, a senior teacher watching out of his window as a young kid was severely bullied yet he did nothing and that seemed to encourage the bullies to go one step further; I wouldn't be surprised to see that still happening with teachers not wanting to risk themselves dealing with something they could ignore.
The difference is though that workplace bullying seems to have become acceptable, and often seems to be encouraged. I recently did a long contract at a company where they were a major firm with a fairly OK IT department, they did what needed to be done and not much more yet they were a very good company to work for with great morale. The firm decided it wanted better "IT" so it sacked their IT director and replaced him with a new Global "CIO"* then brought in a regional CIO to manage London, Europe and Asia. Both of them were narcissistic bullies who went out of their way to bully anyone who didn't suck up to them. I know one guy who left last May after being bullied to the point he had to leave, he hasn't worked since; unfortunately for him, he was a contractor or he'd have had a bulletproof case at a tribunal. They made about 20 people redundant, it was bluntly obvious that it was everyone who openly disagreed with them yet it's hard to prove when not long before they'd had their annual appraisals written in a strongly negative way. The worst I saw was one middle-manager being shouted at and bullied by a peer in the middle of the open plan office after we'd just come out of a meeting where he'd been openly bullied by the two new CIOs, it was nasty agressive stuff, the peer manager was a toady of the new ones and knew he could join in with the bullying because the bullied guy had no-one he could go to for help with HR doing a perfect impression of the three monkeys. They've now lost almost everyone who can leave and get a job elsewhere, leaving the incompetent and the desperate.
It seems to be that to succeed in London, you have to be either extremely lucky or a narcissistic bully willing to destroy everyone and everything to get that tiny step up. Good guys just don't win very often. Bullying seems to have replaced leadership in the management structures of London, and what's worse, it gets openly rewarded as "strong management". About a decade ago, I would have struggled to name the companies in my fields with a good reputation for staff morale because there were so many of them, now I'd struggle to name more than one or two because there are so few. The recession has made many people worried about losing their jobs, meaning they'll take more abuse than before without complaint; the market is quite healthy just now in the UK as long as you're the one taking the profits from companies that still report profit increase after profit increase**, yet the feeling in the city as an employee is dire with management still laying it on thick about difficult working conditions keeping pay low if you're below the very senior management grades; this then gives the bullies even more encouragement to do their stuff.
* CIO in brackets because very, very few of these CIOs come close to being a real CIO and should still be IT directors
** I received my pension statement yesterday and my pension pot grew by 18% last year excluding my payments to it.