Transforming Struggles: Organizational Modes, Mobilization Outcomes, and Occupy Wall Street

Monday, July 14, 2014: 12:30 PM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Markus S. SCHULZ , LAS/Sociology, UIUC, Urbana, IL
Encampments at Zuccotti Park and elsewhere have been violently dismantled, the mass media spotlight moved on, the spectacle stopped. Fissures between different tactical and organization approaches widened. Yet, the mobilization continued through manifold spin-offs, ranging from Occupy Sandy, which provided rapid relief in response to a devastating hurricane, to groups such as the Alternative Banking Working Group, which worked on new policy proposals, and Strike Debt, which developed new kinds of direct action. Although Occupy Wall Street inspired public debate and imagination, there are hardly any tangible policy achievements while recent data point to even further increasing socio-economic inequality. Assessments of the leaderless, General Assembly-based organizational form were divided over whether these were the essence of a prefigurative politics for real change and attracting participants or whether the lengthy, consensus-requiring deliberations prevented tactical efficiency, liaisons with large unions and NGOs, and negotiations with the political establishment to win concrete legislations. What lessons can be drawn from the Occupy experience so far? How can social movement theory help to explain the rise, fall, or metamorphosis of the mobilizations? How do existing theories need to be revised in light of the new empirical experiences and the challenges ahead? Multi-method focus on the experience in select cities shows not only enormous local variation but also varied modes of connecting sites of struggle. The paper concludes with a discussion of options for future action.