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The Occupy Movement

The Occupy movement began in New York on 17 September 2011, after a few anarchist activists, including the well-known and respected academic David Graeber, along with Adbusters, the radical journal, put a call out to Occupy Wall Street. This location was chosen because it was perceived by activists to be where those responsible for causing the financial crisis of 2008 worked. Graeber details how the occupations in other parts of the world, including those in Spain, were inspirational. There was also a desire, which is to be expected within anarchist circles, to move beyond the predictable A to B march and rally that had been organized by certain socialist groups in New York. The Occupy movement planned for New York was definitely to be organized in a non-hierarchical and horizontal fashion. The call by Adbusters attracted '2000 people, and following this nearly 200 people set up camp in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street' (Roberts, 2014: 173). Other Occupy groups emerged all over the US and in various parts of the world. What is significant for this chapter is the fact that the emergence was caused by a crisis of doxa. I make this claim because the politics of Occupy attracted significant numbers of people who were not previously politically active. To substantiate this, I have drawn on accounts first collected from Graeber (2013) and then from my own research on Occupy London and another camp in England.

From interviews with people who were involved in the Occupy movement in New York an activist reports that they ‘heard the same story over and over again: "I did everything I was supposed to! I worked hard, studied hard, got into college. Now I'm unemployed, with no prospects, and $20,000 to $50,000 in debt."' (2013: 66)

Graeber goes on to say:

More seemed children of relatively modest backgrounds who had worked their way into college by talent and determination, but whose lives were now in hock to the very financial industries that had crashed the world economy and found themselves entering a job market almost entirely bereft of jobs. (2013: 66)

In terms of the protest demographic, Graeber (2011) states that:

We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Most, I found, were of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated - faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates.

The next point Graeber (2011) makes in the same article sums up the way in which the previously undiscussed and taken-for-granted rules of the political field - doxa - has now risen to the level of discourse. Neoliberal practices which were lauded as the only way to advance a society's wealth, for example, privatization, the creation of new markets and deregulation, especially of the financial sectors in advanced western industrialized countries, have revealed themselves to not work. He states that:

everything we'd been told for the last decade turned out to be a lie. Markets did not run themselves; creators of financial instruments were not infallible geniuses; and debts did not really need to be repaid - in fact, money itself was revealed to be a political instrument, trillions of dollars of which could be whisked in or out of existence overnight if governments or central banks required it. (Graeber, 2011)

He makes a very salient point when he states too that even the ‘Economist (not known for its radical stance on economic and politics) was running headlines like "Capitalism: Was it a Good Idea?"' (2011).

My own evidence collected from activists involved in two Occupy camps is congruent with arguments presented by Graeber (2013), and the evidence provided from the Spanish Indignados movement.

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