Occupy Wall Street – Transforming towards Transformation

Written on October 23, 2011 by magdalena.wojcieszak in News

We daily receive overdoses of updates on the Occupy Wall Street movement: images in the newspapers, links on Facebook, updates on Twitter, and photos of the protesters on the world’s most popular blogs. The movement has spread to more than 60 cities internationally, leading Jon Stewart to note that it has become “the Hard Rock Cafe of leftist movements.”

Also, public opinion polling organizations are reporting that a growing number of Americans are paying attention to news about Occupy Wall Street, and that there is a general support for its goals.  “A great success” one may say.

“But what goals?” another may ask. Yes, we know about the general dissatisfaction with the economic inequality (larger in the US than in most Western nations and than in either Tunisia or Egypt), about the rising unemployment, about the fact that most governments  tend to support the rich and powerful and contribute to perpetuation of the status quo for the 99%.

But these are facts, injustices, and problems (some of which are nation-specific, most of which are global), around which the Occupy Wall Street movement and its supporters unite.

These are not goals or solutions. What are the specific goals of the Occupy Wall Street that the American public is said to support? More important, how should these goals be reached?

At a recent conference in Matadero in Madrid, Zygmunt Bauman, a prominent Polish philosopher and sociologist,  poignantly noted that the Occupy Wall Street movement and its global supporters should replace change with transformation. The former indicates dissatisfaction and desire to abolish the established order and transformation implies that it is known what will come after the change and how it will be accomplished. Transformation, in other words, is directional and purposeful.

“How to get there?” and “Is there a there to which to get?”

Addressing these questions, transforming towards transformation so to speak, is the next step for this growing international movement. Addressing them will – hopefully – contribute to real reforms and prevent the movement from staying in its infancy. After all the Arab Spring has not yet seen its Summer…

If you have any comments and ideas on how this may be accomplished – let us know and we will spread the word towards Wall Street.


Yuliya Shymko October 27, 2011 - 1:42 pm

Although I agree with the general premise of the article, there are some clarifications to be made. First, it is important to understand that the overall frustration with the system carries some specific national hues. Here in Spain ,for example, protesters are quite explicit about their demands, goals and solutions. They want more political respresentation of minor political parties, less regulatory entrenchments for banks and financial institutions, better labour conditions and less short-termism in economic policies.
The second fundamental question is if it can achieved in the conditions of “powerless politics”. Some of it, perhaps. But most issues are beyond the grasp of national governments… therefore, local hardships are perceived through the discontent with the current global arrangements. Bauman talks about “three Egyptian plagues” – uncertainty, impotence and disintegration (the dismantlement of solidarity culture). All three being the main impediment for the creation of supranational institutions that could counterbalance the power of capital and multination corporations. The great achievement of los Indignados and Occupy Wall Street movement consists in trying to fight at least two of these plagues. The success and purposefulness of this effort to a large extent depends on what kind of intellectual contribution we are willing to provide.

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