In his interview with Ezra Klein, anthropologist and Occupy Wall Street co-organizer David Graeber said:
In a way, what we want is to create spaces where people can think about questions like that. In New York, according to law, any unpermitted assembly of more than 12 people is illegal in New York. Space itself is not an openly available resource. But the one resource that isn’t scarce is smart people with ideas. So we’re trying to reframe things away from the rhetoric of demands to a questions of visons and solutions. Now how that translates into actual social change is an interesting question. One way this has been done elsewhere is you have local initiatives that come out of the local assemblies. [Emphasis mine — NR]
He doesn’t elaborate much, but I think this gives support to my theory that Occupy Wall Street is less a traditional protest than a communal space and movement incubator.
Over at Forbes, Erik Kain has more:
Like Resnikoff, I think that even just organizing and maintaining these protests is worthy of praise. The manifestation of #OccupyWallStreet as more than just a hashtag is a real achievement. From incoherence comes relevancy, however messy or disorganized that process may be.
But I also think that in order for this communal space to become something more, to really achieve movement status, the activists will need to establish more than just a permanent outpost. Somehow these activists need to translate the protests and the communal spaces into actual institutions.
Furthermore, the real import of these protests is not the protests themselves but the deep need for solutions outside of the political duopoly and the realm of government. Unions used to be a real bastion of political activism. Now that unions are on the decline, there are few populist outlets remaining. For regular people to have a voice, they need strength in numbers.
The Tea Party understands this all too well. Until recently however, the left had forgotten the importance of solidarity.
Perhaps Wisconsin should be seen as a precursor to Occupy Wall Street, and perhaps Occupy Wall Street is only the beginning. Progressives need to keep looking to civil society to affect change. They need to rebuild the crumbled institutions of the left.
That last paragraph is key.
(By the way: If you haven’t encountered Graeber’s work before, I recommend his illuminating Naked Capitalism interview on the history of debt.)