The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The Occupation

October 17, 2011

Photo: Protester at Zucotti Park, 9/28/11;
Credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

I support the on-going Occupy Wall Street protests.  I do not share the common complaint that the protesters need to formulate a clear list of demands – which is itself a rather odd demand to make of what seems to be an anarchist inspired movement.  The protesters’ lack of an explicit set of demands and coherent arguments when interfacing with corporate media is from my perspective a sign that the movement is an authentic expression of popular frustration.  Of course, specific demands may evolve organically through deliberative democracy… and if a list of demands does emerge from such a process, that would be welcome.

In the meantime, I would offer a few hurried thoughts/critiques about the movement so far in the hope of sparking a discussion with Duck readers…

1. Socio-economic domination is fractal as well as fractional.  By this I mean that patterns of domination are endlessly recreated at different scales.  

2. Sources of oppression are internal and external to the subject.  It is easy to target the blame on a tiny elite which is grotesquely wealthy and politically influential.  However, mass consumer practices are the fuel for the economic system. Adbusters, which helped to spark the current protests, has had much less success with its “Buy Nothing Day” campaigns, but perhaps this should be seen as integral to the OWS movement.

3. Wall Street is only part of a nexus of power that has left the country economically devastated.  Perhaps protesters should consider adding a movement to Occupy the Pentagon?  There have been some initial steps in linking the anti-war movement with the OWS protests, but a more symbolic spectacle may be needed.

4. Demands to limit “corporate greed” seem awkward or a tad naive.  Can corporate influence in politics and profit maximization really be limited without dissolving corporate personhood?

5. The globalization of protests to match the globalization of capital is strategic and intelligent.  However, global capital has regulative organizations which need to be pressured directly (e.g. the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision at the BIS).  So far, Basel is relatively quiet with only about 100 protesters participating. Whether such organizations are susceptible to popular pressure is debatable, but a protest outside the BIS would at least spotlight one of the institutions which could help to rein in global capital.

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Vikash is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. His main areas of academic interest are (post-) globalization, economic development, and economic freedom, with a regional focus on South Asia