McKenzie Wark: #OccupyWallStreet as an Occupation, not a Movement

Excerpted from McKenzie Wark:

“Commentators tie themselves in knots over whether it is a social movement or not. It is an occupation. It is in the title in case you missed it: Occupy Wall Street. Those who have been paying attention will notice it is part of a global wave of anarchist inspired occupations, big and small. My own university, the New School for Social Research, was occupied in 2008, however briefly. This is a tactic that has been tried and refined for a few years now.

An occupation is conceptually the opposite of a movement. A movement aimed for some internal consistency within itself but uses space just as a place to park its ranks. An occupation has no internal consistency in its ranks but chooses meaningful spaces which have significant resonance into the abstract terrain of symbolic geography.

That it just doesn’t do some of the things social movements do is part of why its working, at least so far. It is as remote from The Political as some intellectuals would have it, but it is also different to the Social Forum politics of the recent past as well. For those who want a theory to go with the practice, you will have to look elsewhere than to Negri or Badizek (Badiou+Zizek). There’s no multitude; there’s no vanguard.

If the occupation is a little confusing for us intellectuals, take pity on our poor billionaire mayor! Bloomberg suggested that the occupation was inconveniencing regular banker struggling on a mere 40k-50k per year. The average household income in my neighborhood, which is quite a nice one, is just under 40k per year—and that’s household income. The “poor bankers!” line seems unlikely to garner much sympathy.

So as to how this plays out, nobody knows. That’s how it is with weird global media events. It’s a test of wills. The NYPD are not quite ready to use strong force in case that’s counter-productive. There could be quite a few people—anarchists or not—willing to get arrested. There could be quite a reservoir of popular support. For once the object of the occupation is something generally held in low regard by just about everybody who doesn’t benefit from it. The key is keeping the focus on the abstraction that is Wall Street, the pernicious effects of which pretty much everyone feels in their daily life.”

1 Comment McKenzie Wark: #OccupyWallStreet as an Occupation, not a Movement

  1. Morgan K Freeberg

    “There’s no multitude; there’s no vanguard…It’s a test of wills.”

    For a testable will to exist, there has to be a defined objective somewhere. Once an objective has been defined, a vanguard must be defined.

    “There could be quite a reservoir of popular support. For once the object of the occupation is something generally held in low regard by just about everybody who doesn’t benefit from it.”

    It’s true that “Enemy of my enemy must be my friend” does have some natural cachet. But this doesn’t have lasting effect. Human nature being what it is, after living with two diametrically opposed irritants for any length of time, people eventually see nothing more than a couple of irritants and lose their appreciation for whatever inimical relationship the two irritants might have with each other. Eventually they just despise both.

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