“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” —Karl Marx
What ever happened to Occupy Wall Street? Only 18 months after the camps in Zuccotti Park and across the country were being compared to the Arab Spring, people now remember the movement with the same dismissive nostalgia usually reserved for lesser Backstreet Boys. Cynics wonder what the movement ever accomplished, as if OWS fizzled out on its own accord as opposed to being brutally, aggressively, and covertly evicted in a coordinated, nationwide campaign of repression.
Of course, the reality is that OWS never really went away—it only became less visible and therefore easier to ignore after the evictions. Even when OWS couldn’t be ignored, it was always easier to make fun of it than to try to understand it. The lack of concrete demands, the weird hand gestures, and the eclectic mix of people all made the movement impossible to fit neatly into the ubiquitous “Democrat vs. Republican” narrative, and so it was generally viewed as a sideshow or a “liberal Tea Party” by the mainstream media.
But OWS was always better understood in the context of history than in the context of American politics—the entire premise of the movement was that American politics were fundamentally broken in the first place. David Graeber’s new book, The Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement aims to place OWS in that historical context. It’s something of a tricky task, since the movement is only two years old, and its long-term effects are still unclear. Continue reading »