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Questioning Capitalism – Occupy and the space for alternatives

August 21, 2012

by Ragnhild Freng Dale via 17th World Congress of the IUAES

Long Abstract

How can social movements open new spaces for practice-based critical reflection and questioning capitalism? Throughout 2011, the Arab spring started a wave of social movements across the world, from the Spanish Indignados to Occupy Wall Street and beyond. The Occupy movement took on a particular presence in global imagination, spreading to over 900 cities worldwide and making a significant mark on contemporary politics. While its legacy and continuation is likely to be disputed for years to come, this paper will consider how Occupy London provided a space for a radical sociality based on sharing and horizontalism. The occupation of an area between St Pauls Cathedral and the London Stock Exchange became a unique entanglement of materiality, discourse and a range of people with different ages, genders, class backgrounds and financial situations, who met in the timespace of the occupation and made up an assemblage with potential for radical change. Participating in the process of building a community in a city of steel and corporate interest, protestors simultaneously engaged with theories of mimesis, performativity and economic analysis. In a sideways motion reminiscent of feminist critiques, they imagined and performed a society they found more welcoming than the neoliberal world around them. Occupy’s work towards an ‘alternative’ to the current system, highlights not just a willingness to cooperate with friends and strangers, but also calls for a re-examination of rational actor theories and economic models that have become dominant under neoliberalism.

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