Grassroots Reaction to Economic Crisis: The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Movement

Posted on October 11, 2011 by


BY BEN HABIB.

Over the past month a grassroots protest movement called Occupy Wall Street has sprung up in the United States, in reaction to that country’s increasing disparity between rich and poor in the context of severe economic crisis, the hollowing out of the middle class and the government’s co-option by big finance.  The Occupy Wall Street website describes the movement in the following terms…

‘Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

Indeed the Occupy Wall Street movement is a political reaction to the perfect storm of economic, energy and ecological problems described in my previous post The End of Infinite Growth, Part I: The Economic Face of Natural Limits.  In a very short time, this movement, originally proposed by Canadian activist group Adbusters, has mushroomed from a core group of a few hundred protesters in New York City to include ongoing protests in over 70 cities in the United States and Canada, along with a growing list of cities around the world.

In recent years we have seen the right-wing Tea Party movement take American politics by storm, driven by the same set of economic circumstances that have given birth to Occupy Wall Street.  Yet where the Tea Party movement has mis-directed its venom at the typical targets of conservative anger, Occupy Wall Street is directly targeting the core of American economic power (see the article Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party compared in The Guardian).

Both movements taken together with the recent debt ceiling fiasco in Congress are signals pointing to the unravelling of the American political system.  In countries all over the world, we should watch out for grassroots political responses to the end of growth from both the right and the left.  The deplorable state of politics in Australia at present does not bode well for constructive adaptation when this intractable international crisis inevitably begins to impact on us.

For this reason, it is worth paying close attention to the ongoing evolution of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The following links are a good place to start…

Official website: Occupy Wall Street.org.

The Guardian, Occupy Wall Street news feed (regularly updated).

SBS World News Australia, Timeline: Occupy Wall Street.

Al Jazeera, In Depth: Occupy Wall Street (video gallery).

The Atlantic, In Focus: Occupy Wall Street (photo gallery).

Adbusters, #occupywallstreet.

The Guardian, Wall Street protests across the US (photo gallery).

Laurie Penny, New Statesman, Occupy Wall Street: A Dispatch from the New York Frontline.

I’m very interested to hear the thoughts of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga readers on this evolving movement.  Please feel free to leave a comment in the dialogue box below.  We are alive at a pivotal moment in modern human history, let us embrace the moment.

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Dr. Benjamin Habib is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at La Trobe University, Albury-Wodonga. Ben’s research project projects include North Korea’s motivations for nuclear proliferation, East Asian security, international politics of climate change, and undergraduate teaching pedagogy. He also teaches in Australian politics and the international relations of the Middle East.  Ben undertook his PhD candidature at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and has worked previously for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  He has spent time teaching English in Dandong, China, and has also studied at Keimyung University in Daegu, South Korea.  Ben is involved with local community groups Wodonga and Albury Toward Climate Health (WATCH) and Transition Albury-Wodonga.

Ben welcomes constructive feedback.  Please comment below, or contact Ben at b.habib@latrobe.edu.au.

The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.

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