The Occupy movement, born when protesters gathered to decry Wall Street’s systematic exploitation of the working class, celebrated its first birthday last month. A year into the Occupy movement has not brought the U.S. any major overhauls in economic policy, and a group apology from Wall Street’s 1% has yet to occur. If we measure success by policy changes, it would be hard to call the movement successful – yet.
A Critical Perspective
Critical theory offers a different mindset in measuring the success of resistance efforts. The theory, which originated in Marxist perspectives on labor inequality, argues that dominant groups retain power by manipulating the way their constituents think about the world and their place in it.
Instead of protecting corporate power through force, the dominant group – the “1%” in Occupy rhetoric – promotes a mindset that government and citizens alike have adopted. We are desensitized to social justice issues like the global wage gap, the glass ceiling or exorbitant executive benefits in the face of rising unemployment – desensitized to the point that those issues become expected, and eventually invisible.
Critical theorists propose that in the face of these ideological challenges, resistance occurs by changing the ways people think and organize. From this perspective, the essence of resistance is enlightenment. Occupy has adopted this strategy, and has very successfully identified and broadcasted some U.S. ideological tenants that may cause injustice.
A great example is their current #occupythedebates Twitter campaign, where they aim to “seize the discourse” about political competition and truthfulness.
Tweets using the #occupythedebates question the debate rhetoric and advocate for women, the poor, students and other groups. An unofficial site for the campaign explains the #occupythedebates:
“ This may be the first U.S. Presidential election where the veil is being lifted. The people are beginning to see through the “Goldman Sachs vs Bank of America”, “McDonalds vs Burger King” puppetry theater. We are using social media online, in addition to action in real life, to get a glimpse at an idea, at aspiration, to SELF-manifest real change. We have learned – many of us the hard way – that hope and change will not be brought down from a savior, but must come from us.”
To challenge the system, Occupy uses grassroots campaigns like #occupythedebates to educate the masses about the true realities of corporate corruption and government compliance. From the critical theory perspective, this approach is the essential way to challenge ideology and change the status quo.
Read more about the Occupy issues here.