xiv + 209 pages
The Occupy Movement Explained
From Corporate Control to Democracy
Volume 13 in the Ideas Explained® series
To many Americans, it seemed to come out of nowhere. Demonstrators set up encampments in squares and other public places across the country, spearheaded by the occupation of Zuccotti Park in Manhattan’s Wall Street financial district on 17th September 2011. Polls showed considerable public support for the Occupiers, from Americans incensed by government bailouts of the very financial institutions responsible for the slump.
The Occupy Movement Explained offers a personal, passionate, and truthful account of Occupy Wall Street and the numerous other occupations, and shows how the movement changed the thinking both of its participants and of a wider public. Nicholas Smaligo corrects many misunderstandings of Occupy—such as the myth that it came out of nowhere, the myth that the Occupiers had no conception of what they wanted, and the myth that the movement simply fizzled as the participants ran out of steam.
From Smaligo’s gripping account, Occupy emerges as a continuation of living American radicalism, edited out of official history but always there and now resurgent. The movement aims for real democracy instead of the oppressive farce of representative democracy, in which powerful corporate interests control political life in the interest of the wealthiest.
Occupy Wall Street is credited with the achievement of changing the national conversation, making inequality a central political issue. But, as Smaligo shows, the movement has had other achievements to its credit, especially those of a transformative educational nature. The Occupy Movement Explained does not merely assemble many useful and often overlooked facts; it also gives a powerful sense of what the movement looked and felt like to those caught up in it.
“The Occupy movement was an outpouring of anger and love, as hopeful as any political event in the history of the last few American decades. It developed new models of leadership and new solidarities. The Occupy Movement Explained manages to cherish the hope while also providing explanations for the rise and decline of the movement in terms both accessible and theoretically sophisticated. A participant in the movement, a philosopher, and a fine writer, Smaligo is the right person to crystallize Occupy’s early history.”
—Crispin Sartwell, author of How to Escape
“The Occupy Movement Explained not only deftly examines and lovingly criticizes the spirit of Occupy Wall Street; it carries the movement’s enthusiasm forward by investigating the suppressed history of its principles, illuminating its mistakes, triumphs, and growing pains, and fearlessly vindicating the ways in which it profoundly changed its participants and reinjected political hope and courage into twenty-first century American culture. Smaligo provides a set of tools that help us begin to explain the unfreedom we all feel, but have only begun to articulate, and offers clues about how we can engage in the joy of moving toward freedom together again.”
—Steve Onderick, director of Who Is Vermin Supreme? An Outsider Odyssey
Nicholas Smaligo is a PhD student, activist, and speaker. He has been an active participant in the Occupy movement in the Midwest, and has given many talks relating to the Occupy movement, economics, ecology, and contemporary apocalypticism. He lives and works in southern Illinois, where he is involved in activism related to the environment, debt, and mass incarceration.