The anti-politics of #OccupyWallStreet

Matt Stoller writes: What do the people at #OccupyWallStreet actually want? What are their demands? For many people, this is THE question.

So let me answer it. What they want… is to do exactly what they are doing. They want to occupy Wall Street. They have built a campsite full of life, where power is exercised according to their voices. It’s a small space, it’s a relatively modest group of people at any one time, and the resources they command are few. But they are practicing the politics of place, the politics of building a truly public space. They are explicitly rejecting the politics of narrow media, the politics of the shopping mall. To understand #OccupyWallStreet, you have to get that it is not a media object or a march. It is first and foremost, a church of dissent, a space made sacred by a community. But like Medieval churches, it is also now the physical center of that community. It has become many things. Public square. Carnival. Place to get news. Daycare center. Health care center. Concert venue. Library. Performance space. School.

Few people, though an increasing number daily, have actually taken the time to go through a general assembly, to listen to what the people at #OccupyWallStreet actually want. General assemblies are the consensus-oriented group conversations at the heart of the occupations, where endlessly repeating the speaking of others is the painstaking and frustrating way that the group comes to make decisions. I spoke with a very experienced older DC hand who told me that he hasn’t been because he doesn’t have the patience of the young. This is as different a way of doing politics as distributed computing was to the old world of mainframes. So it isn’t surprising that the traditionalists are reacting as perplexed and dismissive of this new style of politics as the big iron types were with the rise of PCs.

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