On the heels of a round of crackdowns against Occupy Wall Street (OWS) encampments across the country, the movement turned their attention to shutting down the “economic engines for the elite” through a coordinated shutdown of West Coast shipping ports on December 12, 2011. This action occurred following the shutdown of Oakland’s shipping terminal a few weeks prior on November 2 by the Occupy Oakland protestors, with turnout estimated at 30,000 individuals. According to the movement’s website and many of the published news reports on the event, one of the primary motivations of the coastwise shutdowns from San Diego to Vancouver was to stop “Wall street on the waterfront.” The movement saw this event as a two part solidarity action: First, in support of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in its ongoing jurisdictional battle at the Port of Longview in Washington against the grain terminal operator EGT; and second, in support of port truckers—who are non-union despite many unionization drives over the years by the ILWU and the Teamsters—who work on the manifold terminals up and down the West Coast owned by maritime shipping giant SSA (the major tie-in for the OWS movements is that Goldman Sachs has a 51 percent ownership stake in SSA). Continue reading
By Marco Giugni
According to Time magazine, which devoted the Man of the Year cover to The Protester, 2011 was a year of protest movements and collective mobilizations. Of course, the so-called Arab Spring has much to do with this choice, but other movements as well have flourished around the World. The Occupy Movement is surely one of them, along with the Indignados in Spain as well as in other countries. Now, at the dawn of a new year, I think that two main questions need to be addressed: Firstly, will the movement last? And secondly, what are its outcomes? Other people have addressed the first question. Here I deal with the second one. Continue reading
Introducing Part Two of our essay dialogue on the potential consequences of the Occupy Movement. These essays were written in part as responses to the first set of essays posted earlier this month, providing an exchange between scholars and activists about issues surrounding the movement. Many thanks to the distinguished authors contributing the second set of essays for this dialogue: Jon Agnone, Northwest Social Research Group Marco Giugni, University of Geneva Jeff Goodwin, New York University Holly McCammon, Vanderbilt University Nathan Schneider, journalist & commentator We hope you will continue this exchange of ideas started by our contributors by posting any comments you may have. Happy reading, Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, and Dan Myers Editors in Chief
On September 17 of 2011, until NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly called back his shock troops at around 11 p.m., I didn’t think Occupy Wall Street would survive the night. Neither, for that matter, did many of the organizers, whose planning process I had been reporting on since August. But survive it did. So, as the occupation eventually persisted and grew, I made a rule for myself: Don’t try making any predictions about this movement—you will probably be wrong. When people ask me to predict where Occupy is going, I usually just talk about the progress of its older-sibling movements in Greece and Spain and elsewhere, and they’ve been pretty good bellwethers so far. Continue reading
The American public is discontent. A January 2012 Gallup Poll reports that 80 percent say they are “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States.” Similarly, a CBS News Poll finds that 65 percent of those responding say that the country has “pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track” and that the “economy and jobs” pose the most serious problem. The nation hasn’t seen negative polling numbers like these since the 1970s and the end of the post-war economic boom and an oil crisis that meant long lines at the gas pumps. Today, there is clear anger and frustration in the American population. People are angry about the state of the economy, the financial meltdown of 2008, immoral bankers, and political leadership beholden to the wealthy and unwilling to hold those responsible for our economic hardship accountable. For the Occupy Movement, this discontent presents a profound opportunity to build support for its cause, for its vision of how to make society more democratic, more equal, and more just. Continue reading
I agree in a qualified way with the claim that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has been successful in “changing the conversation” in the United States. In fact, there seems to be a general consensus about this success among sympathetic observers of OWS, a consensus broadly reflected in the second essay dialogue recently posted by Mobilizing Ideas. It seems that liberal and left analysts may disagree about whether the movement has or can develop the capacity to change institutions or state policies, but virtually all are in agreement about the conversation-changing impact of OWS. Continue reading
As a new year begins, scholars and activists are reflecting on the future of the movement that garnered so much attention during the final months of 2011. Will the Occupy Movement create lasting change? Here at Mobilizing Ideas, we are ringing in 2012 with our second essay dialogue, featuring scholars and activists debating the potential outcomes of the Occupy Movement. Incorporating observations of Occupy protests in U.S. locales ranging from Wall Street to New Orleans as well as reflections on the similarly-focused Indignados movement in Europe, contributors ask whether such movements will generate measurable changes and what those changes might look like. Adding to the existing media and scholarly attention surrounding the Occupy movement, this dialogue brings scholars studying Occupy and similar European movements into conversation with activists involved in day-to-day Occupy efforts. These initial essays will be followed by a second set of essays responding to the first posts, resulting in an exchange of ideas about how different factors—both things activists can control and things they cannot—shape social movement outcomes. Thank you to the distinguished scholars and activists contributing the first set of essays for this dialogue: Edwin Amenta, University of California-Irvine Lorenzo Bosi, European University Institute Elizabeth Cook, Occupy activist, New Orleans Marc Dixon, Dartmouth College William Gamson, Boston College Yvonne Liu, Applied Research Center Eduardo Romanos, Universidad Pública de Navarra Be sure to check the blog over the next couple of weeks as we post responses to these initial essays from other leading scholars and activists, such as Jeff Goodwin and Nathan Schneider. In the meantime, we hope you will return frequently to read our Daily Disruption posts. Better yet: subscribe to the blog or become a fan of our facebook page to receive regular updates. Happy 2012, Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, and Dan Myers Editors in Chief
By Edwin Amenta
Social movements seek social change, often through politics. With Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in the news since October, it is time to take stock of its political impact: Has it had any influence? If so, what accounts for its influence or lack thereof? Is it likely to be influential in the future? Anyone seeking to assess the impact of social movements has to ask a counterfactual question: What likely would have happened had the movement or protest campaign not existed or taken the specific actions that it did.
Madrid, 2033. A citizen’s movement has succeeded in creating a set of support and subsistence networks that manage many of the resources of the city, beyond the reach of the political class and financial sector. This is the scene set out in La Carta de los Comunes, a book recently published by a group of Spanish activists.[i] In order for the protests that began at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid in May, 2011 to become a revolution capable of bringing about changes like this a lot of things would have to happen but in the world of future possibilities everything is conceivable. Even, shorter range predictions, like those that will be made here, will remain in the realm of fiction, in many cases molded by the hopes and fears of those that make them.
I must begin by acknowledging the extent to which the occupy movement has occupied my own life in the last several months, knowing no boundaries between work life and social, political, and personal life. In my worklife, I was teaching a graduate seminar on social movements (“The Quest for Social Justice”) in which each participant chooses a case to study and to which they apply the various course readings. Two of the students chose to study the Occupy Movement and, in particular, its Occupy Boston branch; a third student took the highly similar Israeli Summer tent city movement. Continue reading