Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Does "Occupy" Need to Stand for Anything?

The biggest criticism I have yet heard about the "Occupy" movement is that its goals are not clearly defined. They have not as thoroughly articulated what they are for as compared to what they are against. In fact, I recently ran across an opinion piece arguing that the demonstrators could put their energy to better use by trying to work through the political process.

I disagree completely. One of my favorite philsophers, Michel Foucault, responded to a similar criticism (that he would not propose any ideals for which he stood), by saying that the real task for anyone wishing to actually change the system is to investigate and understand in greater detail how the system currently works - to expose all of the subtle and diffuse mechanisms of power that are commonly ignored. Otherwise, Foucault insisted, thought is so permeated by the paradigms of the current system that people only end up reproducing that which they are trying to demolish. The results of the Russian Revolution are a great example of this principle (the revolutionaries somewhat unwittingly created a more capitalist society), and it seems that the revolutions in MENA could take a similar route: individual figureheads are being replaced but the system is being preserved.

Above all else, channeling the momentum of the "Occupy" movement into the political process would be the best way to kill the movement and ensure that nothing is done. That's what the political process is there for: to direct energies into benign activities that preserve the social order... and make people think that they are "doing something" even though they are not.

I say, "Occupy" is good enough as it is!

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