The Creative Potential of Occupy Wall Street’s Cooperative Power

Rochelle Gurstein in The New Republic:

Mic_2The night before the first big Occupy Wall Street rally at Foley Square in early October, I went to my local bookstore to hear Chris Lehmann speak about his new book, Rich People Things, which explores, with penetrating hilarity, the follies of the “one percent.” During the discussion, a number of us were struck by the way the obscenely wealthy few are proud to be an “elite” in contrast to the way the term, along with kindred ideas like taste, discrimination, and distinction, have been completely discredited—vilified—in matters of culture. From there the discussion turned to the poverty of our language of dissent and revolt, the resourcelessness of our political imaginations. The historians among us spoke of the radical labor movement that emerged in the last part of the nineteenth century and offered a number of examples of their compelling visceral imagery—plutocrats as “blood-sucking parasites of property”; the factory labor system as “a prison-house” or “chattel slavery”; the competition between men that underwrites capitalism as “bestial”; industrial cities as “inexpressibly base and ugly.” A young woman in the audience said that the nineteenth-century language did not sit well with her and that her generation did not feel comfortable with the language of 1960s “Up against the wall, mother-f-er” confrontation. She expressed some concern that her ivy-league college education—she had been an American Studies major—had made her so hyper-sensitive to speaking ill of anyone that she no longer had words that felt right to her to condemn those responsible for wrecking our country.

More here.