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To the Precinct Station: How theory met practice ...and drove it absolutely crazy | Thomas Frank | The Baffler

And dear god why, after only a few months of occupying Zuccotti Park, did Occupiers feel they needed to launch their own journal of academic theory? A journal that then proceeded to fill its pages with impenetrable essays seemingly written to demonstrate, one more time, the Arctic futility of theory-speak?

Is this how you build a mass movement? By persistently choosing the opposite of plain speech?

Yes, I know the answer: For a protest to become a broader social movement it must analyze and strategize and theorize. Well, this one did enough theorizing for all the protests of the last forty years, and yet it somehow never managed to make the grade.

Occupy did lots of things right: It had a great slogan and a perfect enemy and it captured the public imagination. It built a democratic movement culture. It reached out to organized labor, a crucial step in the right direction. It talked a lot about solidarity, the basic virtue of the Left. But in practice, academic requirements often seemed to come first. OWS was taken as a proving ground for theory. Its ranks weren't just filled with professionals and professionals-to-be; far too often the campaign itself appeared to be an arena for professional credentialing.

Actually, that's an optimistic way of putting it. The pessimistic way is to open Michael Kazin's recent book, American Dreamers, and take sober note of the fact that, with the partial exception of the anti-apartheid campaign of the eighties, no movement of the Left has caught on with the broad American public since the Civil Rights / Vietnam War era. Oh, there have been plenty of leftists during this period, of course--especially in academia. Studying "resistance" is a well-worn career path, if not the very definition of certain sub-disciplines. But for all its intellectual attainments, the Left keeps losing. It simply cannot make common cause with ordinary American people anymore.

Maybe this has happened because the Left has come to be dominated by a single profession whose mode of operating is deliberately abstruse, ultrahierarchical, argumentative, and judgmental--handing down As and Fs is its daily chore--and is thus the exact opposite of majoritarian.

there's a need for union between the eco's, the anti financial corruption, and the rethinking of a fairer form of capitalism, more evol
ved than the economic warlordism that has won the predator prize.

the numbers are there, but still spinning off into tangents, needs more centripetal conglomeration, but without the ye olde left-ologies. .

precious little in sight. :(

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Feb 2nd, 2013 at 06:20:16 PM EST

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