Longtime politics and culture writer Gitlin (Journalism and Sociology/Columbia Univ.; Undying, 2011, etc.) looks at the insurgent Occupy protest movement in the United States.
The ongoing Occupy movement effectively began on Sept. 17, 2011, when a small group of protesters, calling themselves Occupy Wall Street, set up camp at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. The protesters supported a wide array of left-leaning political causes, mostly addressing economic inequality. They soon received media attention, and their numbers grew quickly, as Occupy protests proliferated in cities around the country and world. As Gitlin points out in this relatively brief “initial report on something very much in progress,” the movement has been a huge media success, spreading discussion on economic issues and injecting the term “occupy” and the phrase “the 99 percent” into the national conversation. A veteran of New Left protests in the 1960s and a former president of Students for a Democratic Society, Gitlin effectively places Occupy in context in the history of American progressivism. At times, he seems ambivalent about how the movement is run. Though he approvingly writes about how its lack of leaders and vague goals have helped to make it more appealing and inclusive, he also laments the interminable meetings of fractious and dogmatic Occupiers accomplishing little or nothing concrete. While Gitlin champions Occupy’s “incandescent compound of indignation, joy, outrage, hope, ingenuity, and resolve,” as well as its nonviolence, he has little insight as to what exactly the movement will accomplish going forward (“Prediction is for fools and the jaded”), an uncertainty apparently shared by many inside the movement.
A fine introduction to a nascent movement in progress, characterized as one with great potential but an undetermined future.