Occupy Wall Street Movement


Declaration Flow Chart — Creator Rachel Schragis

This week we are discussing the Occupy Wall Street movement . To understand what this movement is about, we need to know the idea behind it. Here is the statement from the website:

“The NYC General Assembly is composed of dozens of groups working together to organize and set the vision for the #occupywallstreet movement. New York City General Assemblies are an open, participatory and horizontally organized process through which we are building the capacity to constitute ourselves in public as autonomous collective forces within and against the constant crises of our times.”

The following video explains how this movement works:

People are disappointed with government and politicians, and tired of the injustice of the actual society. People feel that leaders are not representing them and are, therefore, failing them. This movement is about participation. In which leaders from within emerge naturally. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) states:

“Occupy Wall Street is structured on anarchist organizing principles. This means there are no formal leaders and no formal hierarchy. Rather, the movement is full of people who lead by example. We are leader-full, and this makes us strong. Instead of picking leaders, which you would then have to follow, leaders emerge organically. These people become leaders because others choose to follow them.”

When I read that OWS was the topic of the week, the first question I had was: how could this movement move forward without a leader? I found two interesting articles that answered my question and gave me a better understanding of this movement. “When No One’s in Charge,” written by Andrea Ovans (Harvard Business Review), analyzes this trend of leaderless movements. Also, she gives examples of “participatory democracy — in which everyone comes together in person to discuss problems and forge solutions through civilized debate.”

The other article, “The Future of the Occupy Movement,” written by Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, provides an analysis of the lessons of OWS. According to Lobel, these lessons are:

  1. Presenting a Narrative, World View or Declaration — Not Specific Demands
  2. Political Independence
  3. Non-Violence, Creativity, Experimentation, and Inclusiveness
  4. Visible, Not Transitory Presence
  5. Creating Alternative Models of What a Democratic Egalitarian Society Might Look Like

When Lobel talks about the future of the movement, he refers to Noam Chomsky’s speech at the Occupy Boston:

“The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that’s already coming.”

Both articles bring up the idea of working together, building communities, and participation through different models such as co-ops. If we look over these models, all of them have leaders that guide the organizations. From the video, we can see that some of them are natural leaders that people follow.

I think the OWS is sending the message that people have a voice and are entitled to express themselves and share ideas and actions. There are websites with links to different experiences in the United States and elsewhere around the world that shows that some change is happening.

People are starting to become involved in and take care of their future. I believe the OWS movement did succeed. Before these big demonstrations, many people did not publically question what they had or did not have.

I don’t agree with everything Joe Nocera said in his article Two Days in September.” For example, unlike Nocera, I think that when people begin to talk to each other and share  their problems, the seed for something larger has been planted. However, I do agree with him that this movement will need a leader.

Hopefully, OWS can evolve in a way in which more people will feel that expressing their ideas and participating can make a difference. When that happens, new leaders will certainly emerge.

If you want to know more about OWS, here are some interesting links:

Insight: Can Occupy Wall Street survive? by Chris Francescani


Occupy protests around the world: full list visualized by The Guardian

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now by Naomi Klein

PRE-OCCUPIED: The origins and future of Occupy Wall Street by Mattathias Schwartz

What Business Should Do about Occupy Wall Street by S. Sivakumar


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