Balzac: Behind every great fortune is a great crime….Cornel West? No. Noam Chomsky? no. Slavoj Zizek? no. The single academic who has done the most to influence the nascent movement of Occupy Wall Street is someone almost completely under the radar: David Graeber.
…His ideas about community-driven politics emerge, in part, from his study of Betafo, a community in central Madagascar that, not by choice, was forced to become self-governing. “Betafo was ‘a place where the state picked up stakes and left,’” Graeber tells the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Basically, people were managing their own affairs autonomously”; the result was a politics of “consensus decision-making.”…
…After helping to get the American-based activist movement off the ground, Graeber has since backed away from it, to forestall the emergence of a leader-follower division of duties in what’s supposed to be a collectivist enterprise. He wants to avoid any suggestion of a division between an “intellectual vanguard” and the rank-and-file protesters.Read More:http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/10/18/meet-the-anthropologist-who-helped-start-occupy-wall-street/
But do Graeber’s ideas make sense, at least in this context? Consensus is an ideological sacred cow, much popularized by Peter Drucker in his study of the Japan economic miracle at the time. But, it is just one among several ways to make decisions, and in many instances may be destructive since it is mixed mumbo jumbo as a value and moral equation which it is not. If a decision does not affect someone, why should they have a right to sabotage a group. Why should men decide on women’s issues? And vice-versa?
Another dogma has been the slogan of the 1% which is only true in a limited sense. In fact, as Noam Chomsky pointed out in Manufacturing consent, there are about 20% running things for the 1%, a facilitator and managerial class that can be thought of as yes folks and lackeys of the golden ghetto. This upper-middle-class is quite happy with the status-quo and are the biggest ambassadors of bourgeois white values, nominal pacifism, market economies, and vigorous exporters of the virtues of distinction and status.
…The Occupy Wall Street movement seeks to speak for the bottom 99% of the population by income, which includes pretty much everyone who makes less than $500,000 a year. According to the protesters’ unofficial website, “Occupy Wall Street” is a leaderless movement of people from many different backgrounds. “The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” the website says. Read More:http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/10/19/what-percent-are-you/
The Occupy protests , in addition to the consensus hangup are also burdened with organizing structures. Informal structures dominated by basically white people with the biggest mouths and egos. The result of an absence of structure. Consensus is simply not viable for large assemblies, only smaller mainly homogenous groups. As Jo Freeman has pointed out, consensus , almost intentionally reinforces status- quo structures of privilege. Freeman determined that a viable and functional structure simply does not develop organically at all ; the initial euphoric feeling of consciousness raising then devolves into an informal, back room hierarchy that privileges the existing privileged and result in group fragmentation.
Obviously, consensus process within large group are ineffe
e in arriving at fast response in a crisis situation. Consensus seems to be based on, and rely on trust, so it can only really fulfill its potential in limited size groups of the like minded. So, its a nonsense myth, an illusion, even a folly that solid structures will automatically and magically arise out of thin air, as if swept up in divine intervention.
But waht if? Waht if we wake up in the near future, and there are no more corporations,Wall Street, Entertainment conglomerates, no globalization, colonialism, pariah states, corruption? Does the Occupy brand of dissent still exist? Well, Unfortunately, there likely will never be such a world. Multi-nationals might vanish one day,and the apparent victory will just be a substitution by some new form of oppressive control, unless the global plutocracy can be dumped into the identical ditch Communism was kicked into. It would be ideal, if we could get back to basics:self-interest mitigated by a prevailing sense of community need, and small business dealing with one another out of necessity and choice.
Stiglitz:But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Lax enforcement of anti-trust laws, especially during Republican administrations, has been a godsend to the top 1 percent. Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever. The government lent money to financial institutions at close to 0 percent interest and provided generous bailouts on favorable terms when all else failed. Regulators turned a blind eye to a lack of transparency and to conflicts of interest….
…When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied. The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office.Read More:http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105
Not everyone is worried about the banks. “I wouldn’t shed too many tears for Wall Street,” Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, who is now teaching a class on the financial crisis at New York University School of Law, wrote in an email. “The systemic advantage that the too-big-to-fail banks enjoyed in the lead-up to the financial crisis may be diminished in the near term, but the structure is still essentially the same and will almost certainly help catapult them to record profits and bonuses once the good times return.”
Mr. Ross, the billionaire chairman of New York-based WL Ross & Co., said Wall Street’s “inherent ingenuity” shouldn’t be discounted and that “the history of the investment community shows that it will find ways to profiteer.” Read More:http://www.financialpost.com/todays-paper/This+time+Survival/5541754/story.html