White on the (constructive) failure of Occupy Wall Street

2016-04-27

in Economics, PhD thesis, Politics

I call Occupy Wall Street a constructive failure because the movement revealed undelying flaws in dominant, and still prevalent, theories of how to achieve social change through collective action. Occupy set out to “get money out of politics,” and we succeeded in catalyzing a global social movement that tested all of our hypotheses. The failure of our efforts reveals a truth that will hasten the next successful revolution: the assumptions underlying contemporary protest are false. Change won’t happen through the old models of activism. Western democracies will not be swayed by public spectacles and mass media frenzy. Protests have become an accepted, and therefore ignored, by-product of politics-as-usual. Western governments are not susceptible to international pressure to heed the protests of their citizens. Occupy’s failure was constructive because it demonstrated the limitations of contemporary ideas of Protest. I capitalize p to emphasize that the limitation was not in a particular tactic but rather in our concept of Protest, or our theory of social change, which determined the overall script. Occupy revealed that activists need to revolutionize their approach to revolution.

White, Michah. The End of Protest. p. 27 (paperback)

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

. May 6, 2016 at 5:49 pm

But online activism cannot be dismissed. Some movements have had real impact, either by putting an issue on the political agenda or by taking over an existing organisation. Without the Occupy movement, the debate about income inequality in America would be much less prominent. The same goes for the Black Lives Matter campaign and violence against African-Americans. In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters managed to commandeer the Labour Party. In America, Donald Trump seems about to do the same with the Republican Party (though whether he can do it to the whole country remains to be seen).

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