A decade ago, on the back of a global financial crisis and the Indignados movement in Spain, activists set up camp in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district bearing slogans of opposition to the unjust power and privilege of “the 1%”. In so doing they sparked a global cascade of ‘occupy’ movements. Intellectuals such as Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek and Frances Fox Piven went and spoke to the crowds, and the crowds grabbed the attention of national leaders. They also bemused them, with their participatory approach to self-organising and a focus on the structural injustices behind social inequality rather than a concrete set of political demands.
But what has been the legacy of Occupy, ten years later? How are we to locate the Occupy movement in light of earlier protest waves, such as the student uprisings of 68 and the worker protests that followed, or the anti-globalisation marches of the late 1990s? What new social and political dynamics has Occupy bequeathed us today? In this panel debate we welcome leading writers and thinkers on the Occupy movement to reflect on these questions as a part of our “Aftermaths” series of events.
Sarah Jaffe is the author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt and Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted and Alone. She is a Type Media Center reporting fellow and an independent journalist covering the politics of power, from the workplace to the streets. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, The New Republic, the Atlantic, and many other publications. She was one of the first reporters to cover Occupy and the Fight for $15, has appeared on numerous radio and television programs. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia and a bachelor’s degree in English from Loyola University New Orleans.
Michael Levitin is a journalist and co-founding editor of The Occupied Wall Street Journal and Occupy.com. He started as a reporter covering the Cochabamba Water War in 2000 for the English-language newspaper Bolivian Times. He earned his master’s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and worked for six years as a foreign correspondent in Barcelona and Berlin covering politics, culture, and climate change. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Financial Times, The Guardian, Time, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. He is the author of the new book, Generation Occupy: Reawakening American Democracy, which appeared in September 2021 on the 10-year anniversary of the Occupy movement. His debut novel, Disposable Man, was published in 2019. He teaches journalism at Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dr Sam Halvorsen is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London. His current research examines uneven political participation in Latin American cities. Previously, he completed doctoral studies on Occupy London, a movement in which he was actively involved.
Prof. Simon Reid-Henry is an author, academic and policy analyst specialising in international and political affairs. His current work examines the fault lines of democracy at home and abroad and the political dynamics of international public finance. Simon is Director of the Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen Mary, Programme Director at Counterpoint, and Research Professor at PRIO in Oslo leading an international team examining the politics of duties in modern political society. He is the author of Fidel and Che: The Revolutionary Friendship Between Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017, The Political Origins of Inequality: Why a More Equal World Is Better for Us All and The Cuban Cure: Reason and Resistance in Global Science.