All posts tagged: Occupy Wall Street

Bernie Sanders and the emerging populist alignment

There’s a lot wrong with how pundits (among others) tend to talk about movements. They may say, for example, “Occupy Wall Street — what did it accomplish? It didn’t go anywhere. Where is it now?” And what they fail to see is that Occupy Wall Street was not about itself—was not about existing forever as a thing. The moment of Occupy Wall Street served to name crises that are still with us: unconscionable economic inequality and a political system that has been rigged to maintain the privilege, power, and concentrated wealth of the few, against the interests of the many. Solving these crisis was not the exclusive burden of occupiers in a public park in New York’s financial district; solving these crises is up to all of us. Along similar lines, “Is the movement fading?” is an imprecise and unhelpful question to ask about Black Lives Matter. We might instead inquire about the crises named by the movement: continuing anti-black racism in US society, police violence against communities of color, an out of control criminal …

my articles on Occupy Wall Street

A reader recently brought to my attention that there’s no landing page that houses all of my publications on Occupy Wall Street. Now there is… Smucker, Jonathan Matthew. 2014. “Can Prefigurative Politics Replace Political Strategy?” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 58:74–82 ——. 2013. “Occupy: A Name Fixed to a Flashpoint.” The Sociological Quarterly 54(2):219–225. ——. 2012. “Radicals and the 99%: Core and Mass Movement.” Pp. 247-253 in We Are Many: Reflections on Strategy from Occupation to Liberation, ed. by K. Khatib, M. Killjoy and M. McGuire. Oakland, CA: AK Press. ——. 2012. “Falling in Love with Ourselves.” n+1 Occupy! (An OWS-Inspired Gazette), September 2012, pp. 28-29. ——. 2012. “A Practical Guide to Co-option.” n+1 Occupy! (An OWS-Inspired Gazette), May 2012, pp. 5-8. ——. 2012[2011]. “The Tactic of Occupation and the Movement of the 99 Percent.” Progressive Planning Magazine, Spring 2012, pp. 6-9.

the life of the group vs. what the group accomplishes

This Monday during Cihan Tuğal’s comparative analysis of revolts in North Africa, Southern Europe, and Turkey—part of the Berkeley Sociology Colloquium Series—he offered this gem about the occupation of Gezi Park: Even though a non-commodified space monetarily redistributes resources among its participants, it does not result in an egalitarian world beyond the revolt itself. [from my notes of Tuğal’s presentation] Cihan discussed multiple motivations for several kinds of participants. One key motivation that struck me—which I think relates to the above quote—was pleasure. Many bourgeois participants were motivated negatively by “the impoverishment of social life” caused by increasing commodification and positively by what Cihan described as “pleasure”. All this reminded me of Slavoj Žižek’s warning (to Occupy Wall Street) about “one of the great dangers the protesters face:” …the danger that they will fall in love with themselves, with the fun they are having in the “occupied” zones. But carnivals come cheap— the true test of their worth is what happens the day after, how our everyday life has changed or is to be changed. …

You (still) can’t evict an idea.

Wow, the one-year anniversary of the eviction of Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti Park) came and went this week. I’m bad at keeping track of what the date is on any given day — or week! And for the past several weeks I’ve had my head buried in GRE prep and school applications. So I just now realized. It occurred to me while rereading William Gamson’s article The Social Psychology of Collective Action (in Frontiers of Social Movement Theory). This made me think of a major accomplishment of OWS: When truly hegemonic, the legitimating frame is taken for granted. Would-be challengers face the problem of overcoming a definition of the situation that they themselves may take as part of the natural order. It is an achievement, then, for a challenger to force the sponsors of a legitimating frame to defend its underlying assumptions. The sheer existence of a symbolic contest is evidence of the breakdown of hegemony and a major accomplishment for a challenger. OWS—which, to me, includes “spinoff” campaigns like Rolling Jubilee, Occupy Homes, and …

Falling in love with ourselves

Also published in Occupy! #5. Occupy! is an OWS-inspired gazette, published by n+1. — In late October of last year my cousin came down to Liberty Square, then home of a thriving Occupy Wall Street, to meet me for a drink. He arrived early so he could check things out for himself. I was eager to hear his impressions. “What stood out to me,” he told me at a bar around the corner, “was how you all are recreating society—or creating a microcosm of society. It’s all there: a kitchen, a medical tent, a security force, a public library, and a whole alternative decision-making structure. It’s fascinating!” Much has been made about the prefigurative aspects of Occupy Wall Street and the occupy encampments across the country, when they existed. The camps, for example, served as more than just a protest, more than just a tactic. Participants consciously prefigured the kind of society that they were striving to build. It was indeed a compelling moment for my cousin—or for any stranger—to witness. In the two months …

Radicals and the 99%: Core and Mass Movement

This essay is a chapter in the new book from AK Press We Are Many: Critical Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation. The book is 450 pages with contributions from 50 authors — most of whom have been active in Occupy Wall Street. Order it here! — Occupy Wall Street audaciously claimed to be a movement of “the 99%,” challenging the extreme consolidation of wealth and political power by the top one percent. Our opponents, however, claim that the 99% movement is little more than a handful of fringe radicals who are out of touch with mainstream America. They’re not 100% wrong about us being radicals. Radicals played pivotal roles in initiating Occupy Wall Street. And radicals continue to pour an enormous amount of time, energy, creativity, and strategic thinking into this burgeoning movement. What our opponents are wrong about is the equation of radical with fringe. The word radical literally means going to the root of something. Establishment forces use the label radical interchangeably with the disparaging label extremist—as a means to …

We Are Many: #OWS Book Launch in NYC this Saturday (Sept.15)

Next week marks the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street — the movement that took New York’s financial district by storm, rapidly swept across the nation, and dramatically shifted the dominant political discourse. AK Press is releasing their new book We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation just in time for the anniversary — with the official book launch event happening at Bluestockings Books in NYC, this Saturday, September 15, starting at 7:30pm. Click here for details and here to RSVP on Facebook. Kate Khatib from AK Press will present the book, followed by comments from some of the book’s contributors, followed by audience questions. I’ll be there, and I have a chapter in the book (Radicals and the 99%, Core and Mass Movement). I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the book and checking out my comrades’ contributions. The book is 450 pages and has 50 authors, including: Michael Andrews, Michael Belt, Nadine Bloch, Rose Bookbinder, Mark Bray, Emily Brissette, George Caffentzis, George Ciccariello-Maher, Annie …

TONIGHT in NYC: “Occupy Their Desire” discussion with Jodi Dean, Not An Alternative, and yours truly

Hey New York City-area friends, tonight I’ll be part of a discussion called Occupy Their Desire at the Austrian Cultural Forum. The panel will include Jodi Dean, the art/activism collective Not An Alternative, and yours truly — followed by a discussion. Here’s the info: Tuesday, August 21 6:30pm – 8:30pm Austrian Cultural Forum 11 East 52nd Street New York, NY It’s free, but you can make reservations. I hope to see you there. Here’s the description from Not An Alternative: Occupy Wall Street occupied mainstream media headlines via a question: what do they want, what are their demands? Philosopher Slavoj Žižek, pushed the question further when he enjoined occupiers not to be afraid to want what they desire — suggesting a gap between conscious want and unconscious desire. In effect, his injunction was for occupiers to occupy their desire; for us to occupy our desire. Inspired by this, Not An Alternative will host a research discussion that investigates and inquires into the desires expressed by and repressed in Occupy Wall Street. The discussion explores questions …

The Problem of Collective Action in the United States

Picking up from yesterday’s post, the central problem I have attempted to apprehend from so many angles has to do with political behavior — especially collective action in the context of the United States over the past 50 or so years. How and why do people act together collectively to advance or defend their common interests? How and why do people not act together for the same — or even resist collective action that would seem to benefit them? In my estimation, social movements in the United States do not presently have anywhere close to the capacity needed to mount sustained challenges to the entrenched power structures we are up against, at least when it comes to issues for which change would threaten the current economic order (e.g. progressive taxation, public education, public health care, cutting military spending, public elections, corporate personhood, financial regulation, global warming, and so on). Thus, Occupy Wall Street has been something of a beacon of hope to many. But momentarily seizing the national narrative didn’t send the bankers and Wall …