Sunday, September 26, 2021

Read the whole thing. It's a hoot. It's got everything,

When I search for the historical significance of Occupy Wall Street, my mind goes first not to the assemblies, the marches, or even the arrests. Rather, the first memory that arises is a 2011 meeting of the Marxist reading group that I attended from 2010 to 2018, my years in graduate school. We dedicated a session that October to Occupy, and the group swelled from its normal five or ten to a packed house, full of dozens of people trying to make sense of what was happening. (This had also happened the previous February during the Wisconsin Capitol occupation and the Arab uprisings.)

...Most straightforwardly, Occupy was the critical event in the formation of a new anticapitalist intellectual milieu. You could go to Zuccotti Park and find people arguing about policing, finance, feminism, climate—and out of this ferment, new institutions took shape and old ones changed. The New Inquiry and Jacobin both slightly predated the occupations (and perhaps anticipated them), but both gained much of their solidity from the participation of the resulting coterie. n+1 and Dissent both underwent much-heralded generational transformations, pointing them in newly radicalized directions. In 2012, the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research appeared, founded by left-wing Columbia graduate students looking for a meaningful alternative to dead-end academic careers. All this, it turns out, had consequences.

...Earlier this year, a student in my office hours asked me if I knew about some radical writer. I smiled and said, “Oh sure, I met that guy once at a Verso party seven or eight years ago.” The student blinked at me—”The Verso loft? You’ve actually been there?” While it’s tempting to roll one’s eyes at such a totemic status for a party venue for the New York media-centric left—and easy to mock as an instance of an in-crowd—we ought to take its significance seriously.

Certainly, Occupy is not reducible to some number of careers in the cultural superstructure. And like any scene, this one has its narcissism, its pecking orders, its blind spots, and its abuses. But it must be acknowledged the movement of 2011 created what cultural theorist Raymond Williams would have called a “structure of feeling”: a loose system of institutions of production and reception of ideology, in which a common experience and mood could solidify somewhat into a common language, shared even among antagonists within the left.

This bit is priceless 

It is not that the individuals in this intellectual cohort were all important to the development of Occupy (with the notable exception of the writers Vicky Osterweil and Malcolm Harris, who helped bring a crowd early on with a fake promise of a Radiohead appearance). 

repeats: Blyth and David Brooks,  Osterweil, and date night at the Verso loft 

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