This text analyses the U.S. Occupy movement as a particular societal response to the crisis of neoliberal hegemony, and as the initial stirrings of a counter-hegemonic project. Here, the movement is situated within the context of a blocked transformation, in which the finance-dominated accumulation regime, despite falling into a deep structural crisis, nonetheless remains dominant. Instead of a post-neoliberal transformation, we are experiencing a resurgent neoliberalism. [...]
In this text, I focus on four specific interventions of the movement at the front line of the crisis to show how it responded to the eviction from the public squares and regrouped, and how it navigated these tensions. My aim is, on the one hand, to provide a historical picture of the post-eviction state of the movement and, on the other hand, to provide an analysis of the movement’s developments and current blockages. The four examples are as follows:
- ‘Occupy Our Homes’, a multi-city network opposing home foreclosures and evictions. Using direct action along with affected home-owners, this intervention brings the movement into direct confrontation with the process of accumulation by dispossession (David Harvey).
- Occupy Labor describes the connections between Occupy and the labour movement. I will try to show how this relationship contributed to the growth of the new movement, on the one side, and to the emergence of a new round of labour struggles against precaritisation, privatisation, and wage dumping, on the other. Here the movement has connected and supported struggles against a ‘recovery’ based on further class polarisation.
- Mobilisations of the ‘graduates without a future’ in multiple campaigns against student and consumer debt. In these struggles for debt relief, we see state-interventionist strategies, attempts to build an autonomous debtors’ movement, and mutual aid initiatives. Seeking debt relief, these new subjects are attempting to protect themselves from financial ruin and shift the burden of the crisis of over-accumulation onto the ‘1 %’.
- ‘Occupy Sandy’, a rapid mutual aid network developed to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy, who were left unprotected by the eroded state safety net, and to defend them against debt-based, personal recovery strategies. In this example, we see the attempts to develop an alternative to a ‘disaster capitalism’ based on the dispossession of low-income urban populations and debt-based recovery, through the formulation of a holistic alternative recovery called ‘the people’s recovery’.
Robert Ogman studied social theory at The New School in New York and was active in the alterglobalisation movement. Following the evictions of the Occupy encampments in late 2011, he met with and interviewed participants. Today he lives in Berlin, where he’s researched, amongst other things, social movements in Germany and the U.S. In his PhD, he is analyzing “social impact bonds” and “impact investing” as strategies of crisis governance.