Occupy Proposes a “Real Democracy”

The ideas behind Occupy Wall Street have reached many different audiences with their message against economic inequality and corporate greed. But while they’re protesting this, they are also speaking up about the lack of political representation. You may be thinking… hey, this sounds familiar and you would be correct.


The fight for representation has been well rooted in American history. Today however, OWS protesters aren’t blaming any party for a mistake, but instead making it clear that the American representational political system is inadequate. They’re hoping to transform the interests of politicians from big business to their constituents. “One obvious and clear message of the protests, of course, is that the bankers and finance industries in no way represent us: What is good for Wall Street is certainly not good for the country (or the world)” (Hardt and Negri.) Protests around the world this year from Spain to Egypt and Occupy Wall Street, have cried for democracy, “real democracy.” Amidst their cries for reform it’s important to ask of the protesters, what is the alternative? Foreign Affairs of October 11, 2011 points out that you have to examine their internal structure to understand what government structure would form. “These movements have all developed according to what we call a “multitude form” and are characterized by frequent assemblies and participatory decision-making structures” (Hardt and Negri.) For OWS Facebook and Twitter have been used in these encampments. They’re convenient tools for such a movement because “they correspond in some sense to the horizontal network structure and democratic experiments of the movements themselves. Twitter, in other words, is useful not only for announcing an event but for polling the views of a large assembly on a specific decision in real time” (Hardt and Negri.) No political leader has emerged from the movement, and while it is still early in the experimentation process, OWS is already creating a horizontal participatory process. They’re starting to demonstrate effective models for their “real democracy.”

The fight for equal representation in the United States traces its roots back to the American Revolution. The OWS protesters of today are again fighting for representation and starting to build an alternative structure. This begs us to ask, are we repeating our past again and can we consider the OWS movement revolutionary in nature?


OWS Protest in Denver, Colorado

-Savannah R. Edwards


5 responses to “Occupy Proposes a “Real Democracy”

  1. You say that “American representational political system is inadequate.” Would you say that is because of the way the American government is set up or the way in which it currently functions? That is, do OWS protesters really want to change the form of government in the US, or do they merely want their representatives to start representing their interests? And, in the case of the latter, is that a realistic goal in light of American history?

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