Occupying the Political: Occupy Wall Street, Collective Action, and the Rediscovery of Pragmatic Politics
Cultural Studies - Critical Methodologies, 13:3 (Forthcoming)
13 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2012
Date Written: September 17, 2012
In this paper we compare the institutional and strategic decision making structures of the civil rights movement with the Occupy movement with special emphasis on the role of self-expression as a political value versus strategic considerations. We argue that Occupy participants cast the values and form of the movement itself — how it operates and makes decisions — in terms that are synonymous with its very identity and survival. Occupy is the change that its members seek. There is both promise and peril in this approach. Occupy is finding it difficult to engage in institutional politics — which we argue is key to broad and durable societal transformations. We suggest that as Occupy goes home, and as it prepares to come back, it should renegotiate the tension between self-expression and strategic institutional action, and between movement itself as a goal and movement goals. In short, we argue that mistaking an anti-institutional style of participatory democracy and self-expression for both real democracy and radical capitalist critique undermines political power — and ultimately results in less progress towards participatory democracy as the movement becomes politically less relevant and less able to bring about societal change.
Keywords: social movements, occupy, civil rights movement, collective action
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