Wow, the one-year anniversary of the eviction of Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti Park) came and went this week. I’m bad at keeping track of what the date is on any given day — or week! And for the past several weeks I’ve had my head buried in GRE prep and school applications. So I just now realized. It occurred to me while rereading William Gamson’s article The Social Psychology of Collective Action (in Frontiers of Social Movement Theory). This made me think of a major accomplishment of OWS:
When truly hegemonic, the legitimating frame is taken for granted. Would-be challengers face the problem of overcoming a definition of the situation that they themselves may take as part of the natural order.
It is an achievement, then, for a challenger to force the sponsors of a legitimating frame to defend its underlying assumptions. The sheer existence of a symbolic contest is evidence of the breakdown of hegemony and a major accomplishment for a challenger.
OWS—which, to me, includes “spinoff” campaigns like Rolling Jubilee, Occupy Homes, and many others—is itself “evidence of the breakdown of hegemony.” Hegemony, at least concerning the ideological legitimacy of the status quo. As I’ve said elsewhere, “In a very short time span, Occupy Wall Street dramatically shifted the dominant national conversation from a conservative deficit framework to a critique of economic inequality and the political disenfranchisement of most Americans.”
I am proud of the past year, grateful for the friends I have made, hopeful for what we—and many more of us—may accomplish in the years to come. Perhaps I am guilty of eternal optimism, but I see OWS as a harbinger of things to come; even bigger and better organized waves of collective action for social and economic justice. Continue reading