Less than ten years ago, a day of international protests swept across the globe, involving millions of human beings for nearly a full 24 hours. It was a global protest against the United States starting a war against Iraq, and was, as far as we know, the first coordinated global protest against state-sponsored violence. A few years before that, at a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, a series of intense, angry protests against global economic injustice began. These actions occurred repeatedly over several years, and across several continents. As recently as the winter of 2011, there were enormous protests in Madison, Wisconsin against anti-union legislation. The protests were explicitly focused on class and inequalities, not just on wealth, but also on the discrepancy of power between the very rich and the rest.
Our inaugural digital forum on the Occupy Movement features critical essays by Craig Calhoun, Michael Kennedy, Saskia Sassen and a number of other leading scholars, ethnographic dispatches from multiple sites of occupation and ongoing activism, and a curated digest of perspectives on Occupy that have appeared on other sites and in other publications.
The signs of vacated communities are obtrusive: overgrown lawns, “for lease” signs, real-estate advertisements—or in the strange case of ZuccottiMore…
By my second month living in Boston, I had already produced a standard response to my friends’ questions about howMore…
Horizontal social relationships and the creation of new territory, through the use of geographic space, are the most generalized and innovative of the experiences of the Occupy movement. What we have been witnessing across the United States since September 17th is new in a myriad of ways, yet also, as everything, has local and global antecedents. In this essay I will describe these two innovations, and ground them in the more recent past, specifically in the global south in Argentina. I do this so as to examine commonalities and differences, but also to remind us that these ways of organizing have multiple and diverse precedents, and ones from which we can hopefully learn.
In this essay, we claim that far from being a strength, the lack of demands reflects the weak ideological core of the movement. We also claim that demands should not be approached tactically but strategically, that is, they should be grounded in a long-term view of the political goals of the movement, a view that is currently lacking. Accordingly, in the second part of this text, we argue that this strategic view should be grounded in a politics of the commons. Before addressing the politics of the commons, however, we dispel three common objections that are raised against demands during general assemblies, meetings, and conversations people have about the Occupy movement.
On Thanksgiving, the police entered the encampment at Occupy LA and began hanging signs designating the park hours. The firstMore…
“Democracy,” wrote John Dewey, “is more than a form of government.”The image we are given of democracy is often reduced to administration, the implementation and management of the necessary, but the legitimacy of the state in democracies is inseparable from some notion of the general will. Democracy, as Rousseau argued, requires some process for the formation of the “general will,” by reference to which decision-making can be measured. The Occupy movement is an attempt to form the general will in new ways. As such, it is a potentially fundamental contribution to resolving the contemporary crisis of democracy.
Bloomberg cleared Zuccotti Park in the early morning hours of November 15 just like university administrators often push through unpopular changes during the summer, when students are sparse. His rationale? Safety and health. This in a city where there are potholes inside of potholes, vomit and urine regularly on subway platforms, and gunshots within earshot of most neighborhoods. Walking through the cleared out park the next day, newly lit up for the holidays yet now devoid of life, I found myself with tears of frustration.
Anger and fear are certainly necessary emotions for driving political disobedience, but a successful movement, no matter its local iteration, will also create the space for joy, spontaneity, and serendipity.
The appearance of OWS has been a thrilling event and incipient movement. It has already shifted the terms of debate in national and electoral politics, even as it has stimulated intense intellectual excitement among academics. How do we (and might we) understand what it is, characterize what it portends, and engage it? My goal here is to wonder out loud about the relationship between this movement or event, and the inherited (or even recently minted) categories we use to interpret it, and so also about how we relate thought and action.