Political Disobedience

Political scientist Bernard Harcourt describes the Occupy, movements, in the New York Times

Occupy Wall Street is best understood, I would suggest, as a new form of what could be called “political disobedience,” as opposed to civil disobedience, that fundamentally rejects the political and ideological landscape that we inherited from the Cold War.

and the Guardian as fomenting a “new grammar of political disobedience”

I’ve argued in the New York Times that the idea of a leaderless occupation movement represents a new paradigm of political resistance – what we might call “political disobedience” – that demands a new vocabulary. I’d like to suggest here that it also calls for an entirely new grammar.

The syntax that the critics and pundits are using no longer seems to work. Statements to the effect that Occupy Wall Street should get an agenda or, as the Wall Street Journal disdainfully remarked, should stop engaging in “days of feckless rage”, no longer fully make sense. It is as if these grammatical formulations cannot be “heard” properly given the leaderless paradigm of the new resistance movement.

This is true even for the fellow travelers. So, for instance, when philosopher Peter Hallward contends in The Guardian that “we will need to convert the polemical clarity of the new slogan – ‘we are the 99%’ – into a commanding political standpoint,” somehow the syntax doesn’t work: it is not clear who “we” are, nor whom Peter Hallward is addressing. Are “we” assembled protesters on the internet, readers of the Guardian, “leaders” of a movement, or critics? My sense is that this kind of statement, especially in the form of an op-ed in the Guardian, is somehow inaudible and slightly meaningless. It cannot be “heard” properly anymore.

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