Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Thoughts on the Purpose of the Occupy Movement

Can the purpose of Occupy as a movement be no purpose at all? I think universally, if that word can be used, it is thought that every action has some kind of purpose. Building on that premise, one of the ‘competing’ purposes for Occupy on the conceptual, symbolic and ideological level is to demonstrate against global institutions, states, markets, and hierarchical systems which cannot fit the network model experienced through technology in the everyday, and are failing to represent the population through different varieties of democratic systems (with their microfascist logics) or other fascist systems, and more specifically points to:
  • the failures of a hierarchical and exploitative and bankrupt  global system to take care of the majority of its population (the so called 99%, although that is something more symbolic than not, but fair enough)
  • the failures and incompetencies of the states and markets to regulate financial networks and flows, as well as suppress networked resistances and organised networks of every description be it insurgent, liberation, dissident or single issue;
  • the concentration of wealth at the hands of a transnational capitalist class which cannot morally and/or  ethically sustain their position through the use of ‘liberal’, ‘social democratic’ or even totalitarian and authoritarian regimes without recurring upsrisings in the populations, wherever in the system they maybe placed/spaced;
  • the failures of present governance systems to deliver high expectations in economic, social, and political terms
  • and the inadequacy of capitalist institutions to find solutions, which put humans first and machines second, and provide for environmental consciousness and alternatives mode of production which are not exploitative but fair (examples range from multistakeholderism, to participatory democracy to peer production, the commons, open systems, and so on).
A second purpose seems to be to create some sort of organization, communication and structure on the local, regional and global levels in the form of acentred/distributed/nonhierarchical modes  to create and disseminate communication material, to ‘raise awareness’, recruit supporters, generate funding and gain logistical support for camps and direct actions, teach ins and spread the word about all these failures they are demonstrating against. This is done through sponsoring and creating local direct actions, events and becoming another  competing force in the various dominant discourses and areas of their concern (for example in relation to the debt crisis, jobs, the political system’s ongoing injustices all over the world and so on) .
A third purpose beyond the conceptual, ideological, and strategic, seems to be to start thinking about the movement’s eventual purpose, which is starting to happen in the intellectual circles (the suggestions are ‘I dont know what that is, but we need to discuss this as part of the process and then think about the strategies and tactics, so we can try to materialise the spirit of Porto Allegre/add other movement’s definitive moment here’.
It is indeed bizarre that this movement of movements has truly no beginning, no end only a middle in which we are and I think we will be for some time to come. One can only hope the middle is where it picks up speed. Ideologically fed on the one hand radical democracy of the Laclau Mouffe variety and the rhizomatic logic of Deleuze and Guattari’s flows, assemblages and abstract machines on the other, no wonder the Occupy knows all about whats wrong, and what it should be, knows how to organize through technology on a global level, but has not so far expressed anything in a coherent manner, which can get us a step closer to materialize some of the alternative modes or production and governance as they have been offered in spades by grass roots organizations of civil society, NGOs, where people talk about alternative monetary systems, peer production, ecological sustainability, copy left, and other alternative information, production, and environmental sustainability strategies.
This is where organizational behaviour analysts and others started talking about leadership in the movement. And yet what kind of leadership would a movement of movements have? The scenarios about what could happen with Occupy are not difficult to imagine and I am willing to give some a go. Occupy WST requires a central role guiding the ideology, organization, communication and structure of the sister movements, which would be quite anti-thetical to the network logic but perhaps making it easier (and more complicit to play the system and find more readily counterparts in hierarchies). Or Occupy is expanding and continues to acquire new groups, but eventually withers away as easily as it formed, and leaves a flavor of nostalgia of the pathos and materialised affect expressed in ‘those years’, in the style of 1968.
I'd prefer Occupy continues to expand physically and digitally but also begins to organise beyond actions, conferences and meetings and online blurbs and likes and links in some form (presently not figured out by anyone), which strikes a hybrid balance between hierarchy and network which does not adhere to closed fixed and rigid ideas and systems of control, and which does not rely on models which place restrictive logics on the population depending on nationality, borders, religion, ethnicity, class, mainstream sexuality and respects bio/psychological difference, along with modes of production in the various areas of human (and nature) activity that are reflecting that mentality and are just enough to stomach considering the extremely impoverished positions of the populations in the periphery of the world/global city/centre. For this to happen there is a need to create more than local smooth spaces, more than web spaces, and more than online blurb about the coming revolution.
Dr. Athina Karatzogianni, Senior Lecturer in New Media and Political Communication, University of Hull.

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