What is OWS?

According to http://occupywallst.org/about/ the Occupy Wall Street movement self identifies as  


“a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in

Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.”


I plan to look at OWS in its historical context and come up with my own definition. First, here’s a general consensus as to what the Occupy Movement fundamentally is. OWS is a global movement; this is self-evident when one hears of the Occupy demonstrations taking place in more than 1,500 cities worldwide. It was originally put into motion as a means to address economic inequality, hence the 99% slogan that is thrown around (meaning, the protestors believe they are speaking for the 99% of Americans who are economically disadvantaged by the richest 1%).

The rhetoric for this movement, however, can be categorized as inconsistent. For example, OWS is known to have a corporate sponsor, Ben and Jerry’s, and yet they platform of their movement is to fight against the economic inequality that big corporations (like Ben and Jerry’s) help create. Also, the 99% slogan is quite misleading; included in this statistic of those who are disadvantage are those who make 500,000 dollars a year for their income. This definitely hurts their statistic when the movement argues that the 99% are at a disadvantage, yet some of them are making half of a million dollars yearly. Although this inconsistency does not destroy their cause, it does weaken their argument. This movement is structured horizontally and is essentially leaderless; this can be seen taking place with the general assembly tool put in place. Everybody has an equal opportunity to step up and have their ideas disseminate through the crowd. In order for the protesters as a whole to make important decisions, they use the general assembly method to take votes on what should be done. The Occupy movement can also be said to be fizzling out. Referring back to an earlier post about Occupy Fashion Week, what was supposed to be a huge protest and stance against Fashion Week turned out to be a complete failure, with less than 20 protestors showing up (much less than the anticipated number.) With failed protests and less protestors participating in events such as fashion week, it has led me to believe that OWS may just me a phase. It seems like the cool thing to do (like the hippies back in the 60s).

According to an earlier post titled “Protest vs. Demonstration vs. Revolution”, a revolution is “a major change in the power structure and takes place in a short amount of time. Most revolutions are violent and tend to focus on cultural, political, and economic issues.” However, another definition of a revolution given in an earlier post is a movement that seeks to effectuate broad social change. Given the second definition, the Occupy Wall Street Movement would be termed as a revolution. The change they seek to effectuate isn’t specific enough to pinpoint, but OWS would like to see some change in our economic structure so as to balance out the economic inequality suffered by the 99% (whether they want complete equality or a partial shift is unclear.) Finally, looking back at another post about Occupy Alcatraz, you can see how the OWS movement mirrors that historical movement. Alcatraz’s goal was to raise awareness to the injustice suffered by the Native Americans, which can be compared to a possible goal of Occupy Wall Street: to raise consciousness of the problem of economic inequality.

Overall, it is too soon to determine whether or not OWS is a success or not. If their only goal is consciousness raising and awareness, then they have been pretty successful, considering our class is devoting months of our time to wrote about it. However, if their goals are to effectuate some sort of policy change or restructure the government, it is too soon to tell whether or not this will happen. Like other historical movements (Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage, etc.), this type of change will take time. Therefore, with time, we will be able to fully define the movement and understand it more clearly.


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