Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Goals of "Occupy"

Although I wrote in a previous post that I disagree with the major criticisms of the "Occupy" movement, I do have one to level of my own. I think it is okay that they are not necessarily "for" anything, and I think it is fantastic that they are not (as of yet) working through the political process. The problem, as I see it, is how they have defined what they are against.

The name "Occupy Wall Street" says it all. The movement is targeted foremost at the "financial sector," as well as at large corporations, and thus the problem is framed in terms of "corporate greed" coupled with the government's inability to impose regulations and make everyone pay their fair share (to the contrary, offering large bail-outs). This, of course, is a worthy cause. However, I also believe it is myopic, in much the same way that I argued was the view espoused by Inside Job.

The inherent contradictions of capitalism (the drive to decrease wages and simultaneously increase demand; the negative effects of investments in technology on the rate of profit) have caused a decades-long period of economic stagnation - via a crisis of overproduction - of which the entire financial crisis is a mere symptom. All the while, the normal laws of capitalist production continue to redistribute wealth upward. The problem, then, is not greedy corporations per se, or the unregulated financial sector, but the very nature of the capitalist sytem.

The "Occupy" movement could easily turn into a critique of capitalism, although I highly doubt it will. The ideological work of turning capitalism into a sacred cow has been pretty successfully managed up to this point.

But even if "Occupy" was elevated to a critique of capitalism, its scope could be broader still. Capitalism is more than an economic principle. It is a way of organizing social relations. To that end, if one desires real change, a comprehensive critique of society, including all of its interlinked institutions, ideologies, and practices, is necessary. For everything is interrelated, and together comprises a system that is in its very nature exploitative. One should start to question the nature of the state, the justice system, the media, the family, science, the medical establishment (with its associated industries), and so forth, as well as highlight the ways in which racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and all other forms of discrimination emerge from the exigencies of these institutions.

Occupying Wall Street is nice, but there's a whole world to occupy!

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