Imagining the Post-Occupy Social Movement

If one were to honestly assess Occupy’s current strengths and weaknesses as a movement, confusion must be the inevitable result. This is because Occupy is not one movement, but an umbrella term that encompasses several different groups that have varied aims, organizational structures, and gaping theoretical differences.

Occupy may not be dead, but its power as a powerful social movement has surely been splintered into a dozen or so mini-movements.  For example, a good, broad definition of a social movement is a large group of people who collectively try to achieve certain agreed on goals.

A social movement without common goals does not move in one direction, but many; an organization without a common set of principles or agreed upon demands is not a “group,” but “groups.”

Consequently, Occupy’s various mini-movements move in different directions, towards different ends, using different means, while rarely coordinating with the other groups that are focused on their respective organization, growth, habits, and campaigns.

The result is that collective mass action large enough to change social policy – another key definition of a social movement – is rendered impossible.

Sadly, this was the state of the left prior to Occupy: different groups organized on an “issue based activism” basis, focusing on their own projects, disconnected from any common vision or collective action. Occupy was different precisely because it was massive, and that these various groups found connection under a single banner. But the banner has since been pulled in hundreds of directions until it tore.

Occupy came close to becoming a real social movement but didn’t cross the threshold. Although Occupy failed to evolve into a social movement, it has laid a foundation for one, through its successful mass education around highlighting the 1% vs. the 99% and experiments with organizing and its creation of a new layer of revolutionary activists. Occupy’s inability to grow into a mass social movement may have been inevitable, since the left’s disunity runs especially deep in the United States.

Occupy did, however, create additional barriers for itself to become a social power. Occupy was organizationally wedded to a lack of organization, preventing the enormous energy from being funneled into a social force, and thus spilling in every possible direction.

The rest of the article may be found on Common Dreams where it was originally posted.

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