Blog Archives

Occupy Consensus

While I find the form of consensus used in Occupy Wall Street to be hard to maintain, it is something interesting to consider if it continues to work in the way illustrated:

Ken Knabb is writing on Occupy Everywhere as well:

Almost as clueless are those doctrinaire radicals who remain on the sidelines glumly predicting that the movement will be coopted or complaining that it hasn’t instantly adopted the most radical positions. They of all people should know that thedynamic of social movements is far more important than their ostensible ideological positions. Revolutions arise out of complex processes of social debate and interaction that happen to reach a critical mass and trigger a chain reaction — processes very much like what we are seeing at this moment. The “99%” slogan may not be a very precise “class analysis,” but it’s a close enough approximation for starters, an excellent meme to cut through a lot of traditional sociological jargon and make the point that the vast majority of people are subordinate to a system run by and for a tiny ruling elite. And it rightly puts the focus on the economic institutions rather than on the politicians who are merely their lackeys. The countless grievances may not constitute a coherent program, but taken as a whole they already imply a fundamental transformation of the system. The nature of that transformation will become clearer as the struggle develops. If the movement ends up forcing the system to come up with some sort of significant, New Deal-type reforms, so much the better — that will temporarily ease conditions so we can more easily push further. If the system proves incapable of implementing any significant reforms, that will force people to look into more radical alternatives.

As for cooption, there will indeed be many attempts to take over or manipulate the movement. But I don’t think they’ll have a very easy time of it. From the beginning the occupation movement has been resolutely antihierarchical and participatory. General assembly decisions are scrupulously democratic and most decisions are taken by consensus — a process which can sometimes be unwieldy, but which has the merit of making any manipulation practically impossible. In fact, the real threat is the other way around: The example of participatory democracy ultimately threatens all hierarchies and social divisions, including those between rank-and-file workers and their union bureaucracies, and between political parties and their constituents. Which is why so many politicians and union bureaucrats are trying to jump on the bandwagon. That is a reflection of our strength, not of our weakness. (Cooption happens when we are tricked into riding in their wagons.) The assemblies may of course agree to collaborate with some political group for a demonstration or with some labor union for a strike, but most of them are taking care that the distinctions remain clear, and practically all of them have sharply distanced themselves from both of the major political parties.

Knabb could be aiming at Jodi Dean, Doug Henwood, any number of Marxist magazines, some of the articles at Racialicious, and, depending on how you read what I have said and my tentative support, myself. I suppose that I agree with Knabb that we should wait and watch this play out, but I do not think 68 was a success and I am not sure if Knabb thinks it was.

Knabb notes that there are several in the occupy movement inspired by the situationists.  Given how that all panned out, I don’t know how I feel about that. That said, this is a way to break into the spectacle.  Anyway, Knabb’s Anthology of the Situationist Interational is quite interesting as is Knabb’s translation of the classic Society of Spectacle.

Debord,however, did actually have something to say about Anarchism:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,410 other followers