McKenzie Wark, author of the new book on the Situationists titled The Beach Beneath the Street, said of Occupy Wall Street:

How can you occupy an abstraction? Perhaps only with another abstraction. Occupy Wall Street took over a more or less public park nestled in the downtown landscape of tower blocks, not too far from the old World Trade Center site, and set up camp. It is an occupation which, almost uniquely, does not have demands. It has at its core a suggestion: what if people came together and found a way to structure a conversation which might come up with a better way to run the world? Could they do any worse than the way it is run by the combined efforts of Wall Street as rentier class and Wall Street as computerized vectors trading intangible assets?


These are important questions. Certainly the people are capable of self-governance, particularly as they gain more practice and experience at it. I think the success will be largely determined first by the degree of success the movement achieves in keeping the politics diverse, disallowing figureheads from shaping the politics through charismatic and institutionalized authority, and avoiding explicitly reformist tendencies. As soon as the economic and political institutions are broadly affirmed, the movement will begin to close its most liberatory options. The goals for the short run should be diversity of politics, diversity of tactics, and maintaining the revolutionary impulse. (more…)

3 Responses to ““How can you occupy an abstraction?””

  1. Ed Carlson

    This addresses my main concern, and I am highly skeptical of the possibility of a willing and voluntary fracturing of unity. The human tendencies to belong, be led, to lead, to join together, to corrupt, to convince others of one’s beliefs, to need support, etc., may far eclipse the desire and counter-intuitive wishes to be selfless and objective. The root motivation that has brought many people into this movement was an entirely personal experience or subjective observation, very few are there simply because of their love for their fellow humans or to simply “do the right thing”.

  2. Shagazaki

    I absolutely agree. The participatory and equal process is at the heart of this, it is the meeting of our demand. That said, I would encourage people to be patient with the consensus process. It is not always quick and it is guaranteed to be frustrating at times.

    I think the possibility of future fracturing should be the furthest thing from our mind at this point. Yes, we do not want a monolithic, centralized movement that stifles creativity and regional spontaneity. But right now we are stifled by global structures, and our response to them is, appropriately global in scale. I embrace that. And I embrace the day when we have the autonomy to focus our sights and efforts primarily on regional issues.

  3. Shagazaki

    Ed, maybe few are there out of a pure motivation, but the subjective experiences of what you call their root motivation, may with further experience and deep interaction with diverse persons, be found to have deeper, shared roots.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  Tag: globalism

7 posts
October 18th, 2011

“How can you occupy an abstraction?”

McKenzie Wark, author of the new book on the Situationists titled The Beach Beneath the Street, said of Occupy Wall […]

April 8th, 2011

The Decade of the Leak

After the first major Wikileaks release and the subsequent “manhunt” for Julian Assange, I dubbed this the Decade of the […]

January 23rd, 2011

Review of “Grassroots Postmodernism” by Esteva and Prakash

Esteva and Prakash’s Grassroots Postmodernism presents a powerful theoretical model for alternatives to development.  In reading this accessible, yet deep […]

February 22nd, 2010

Post-development theory, alternatives to development and activist anthropology

In “Anthropology and the Development Encounter,” Arturo Escobar discusses the past approaches of development anthropology as problematic.  He focuses on […]

December 3rd, 2009

Characterizing a paradigm shift: The UN discourse on sustainable development as the greening of globalism

Below is the introduction to a 15,000 essay I just completed, summing up the theoretical and historical basis for my […]

November 14th, 2009

Quote from “Sustainable Development and Agenda 21” by Timothy Doyle

When I was researching for my work on Agenda 21 and the UNCED, I found very little wholesale criticism in […]

October 29th, 2009

Thoughts on Paul Hawken and Blessed Unrest

Thoughts on Paul Hawken and Blessed Unrest by Ben Brucato, September, 2009: One Big Movement In Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken […]