With the Occupy Wall St. protests steadily growing in strength, and spreading to many other cities and countries (including Australia, #OccupyOz), I thought I'd throw out some resources for those seeking more background on the protests and what they're all about. My main set of resources are four documentaries that've come out in the past few years, including a brand new one about the economy called The Four Horseman. I think these films do a great job of exposing and analyzing the deep corruption at the heart of the global financial system, and in the US in particular, and the often debauched and greed saturated culture of those in the financial elite.
But before getting to those, a few articles that might be of interest. The first one is by Douglass Rushkoff, notable author and media theorist. One thing I've been noticing about many commentators around the protests (official and otherwise), is a lack of an understanding about the networked, decentralized nature of these protests. This form seems so foreign to many that they can't seem to recognize it or understand it; Rushkoff provides a nice corrective to that. He writes:
This is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.
I wrote a piece for Beams back in March about the presence and impact of networked organization in the Egyptian revolution, entitled Network Logic- Lessons From Egypt. In that article I quoted the political theorists Hardt and Negri on the reality of a new form of human social interaction/organization in Egypt and elsewhere. They write:
What they don't understand is that the multitude is able to organize itself without a centre – that the imposition of a leader or being co-opted by a traditional organization would undermine its power. The prevalence in the revolts of social network tools, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, are symptoms, not causes, of this organizational structure. These are the modes of expression of an intelligent population capable of using the instruments at hand to organize autonomously.
Hardt and Negri are students of the work of the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari (Slavoj Zizek called Hardt and Negri's work the first sustained Deleuzian politics), and D&G deploy the concept of the rhizome to try and capture this fundamental change. They use the concept of the rhizome in many contexts, but it can also be applied to the political too, as Hardt and Negri do. Here's Todd May from Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction:
A kudzu [type of plant] is a rhizome. It can shoot out roots from any point, leaves and stems from any point. I has no beginning: no roots. It has no middle: no trunk. And it has no end: no leaves. It is always a middle, always in process. There is no particular shape it has to take and no particular territory to which it is bound. It can connect from any part of itself to a tree, to the ground, to a fence, to other plants, to itself" (134).
For another discussion of the concept of the rhizome, here is Felicity Coleman from The Deleuze Dictionary:
Rhizomatic writing, being, and/or becoming is not simply a process that assimilates things, rather it is a milieu of perpetual transformation. The relational milieu that the rhizome creates gives form to evolutionary environments where relations alter the course of how flows and collective desire develop. There is no stablizing function produced by the rhizomatic medium; there is no creation of a whole out of virtual and dispersed parts. Rather, through the rhizome, points form assemblages, mulitple journey systems...Such assemblages change, divide and multiply through disparate and complex encounters and gestures.
I thought that this rhizomatic/networked component of the ongoing global struggles was an important aspect to highlight, and to keep an eye on as we observe and participate in the growing Occupy movement and beyond. Before moving to the docu's, there's a couple of other written resources worth checking out. The first is an interview on Salon with Adbusters headman Kalle Lasn, which speaks to some of the roots of the movement. And lastly is the writing of Matt Taibbi, who's been a leader in exposing the corruption on Wall St. for some time now, and he's developed an impressive ability to explain complicated financial matters in an accessible way. His blog at Rolling Stone Magazine is a great resource.
Now, to the documentaries! The first is a new one called The Four Horseman:
The second is called Casino Jack: The United States of Money, about the uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff:
The next is Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer:
And lastly, the Academy Award winning film The Inside Job: