Analyizing the Power and Structure of Occupy within a National and International System

After exploring my research questions and reading many different newspaper articles on the movement, I decided to use several different theorists. I wanted to use Gramsci to talk about class structure, hegemony, and dominance. I wanted to use Foucault to discuss disciplinary theory and bring up the issue of surveillance. To expand on the issue of surveillance and give the social dominance aspect of the Occupy movement the historical context of colonization, I decided that I wanted to use David Spurr.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is questioning the current world order and its construction of power. Gramsci explains his view of power with the two subsections of hegemony and domination. In his view, the state employs the most power in the system through the creation and enforcement of law and order with the ultimate goal of establishing hegemony over its citizens. With all dominant practices like hegemony, there are counter movements. The counter-hegemony has the ability to eventually become the hegemony. In a hegemonic system, Gramsci believes that the subaltern classes can develop and transform the state, especially through the modes of civil society. The Occupy Wall Street movement is an example of civil society and a counter-hegemonic movement. The world is in a transition phase from the hegemony of the United States to coping with its declining global power. This has left room for the Occupy Wall Street movement to emerge and challenge the hegemony, forcing the ruling class to exert their dominance over the protesters using the police and judicial systems.

Foucault discusses his concept of power-knowledge in his theory on disciplinary power. The hierarchy of power-knowledge values scientific knowledge as the most important type of information, leaving the knowledge of the subaltern classes ranked far below science in terms of importance. The larger distribution of power in disciplinary theory allows resistance to happen anywhere, yet it is more difficult to galvanize and topple the entire system compared to a sovereign power system that typically possesses one head ruler that the masses can align and overthrow. Under the disciplinary power structure, movements like Occupy Wall Street have more opportunity to gain power. A higher distribution of power allows them to resist anywhere and at multiple points.

Spur addresses the issue of gaze, which is an instrument of construction, order, and arrangement that on one hand offers aesthetic pleasure while instituting information and authority. The concept of surveillance has been more unconscious in the media’s portrayal of the Occupy movement. Reporters have the ability to interpret and exclude or include details of each of their stories. The reports across the board have focused on the social disturbances caused by the camps, marches, flag burning, negative police interaction, and arrests. The historical process of colonization has left a rhetoric and culture of hegemony that allows it to be easily internalized and accepted by modes of civil society.

After selecting the three theorists and the aspects that I wanted to focus-on, I slowly related the theories to the actions and experiences of the movement. It very soon became apparent that the issues faced by Occupy Wall Street with in the United States had a pattern, and the same concerns and obstacles faced the international power structure and their international movement. As reflection continued about colonial historical roles, the concerns drifted nicely into new roles of globalization that raise questions about neo-colonial economic power. As I thought about the declining power of the United States and its strive to maintain dominance, it dawned on me about the origin of the Occupy movement itself. The resistance in my cultural example of the subaltern was subaltern within the United States and it does share parallels with subaltern groups across the world. But, my example’s ideology was born from within a dominant rhetoric of West, and their ideas of equality, rights, distribution, and success where not devoid of the social constructs and larger influence of the dominant. Yet, no group in the world is devoid of influence from a larger more dominant social entity. At the rate of globalization and extent of Western influence, many non-American originated subaltern groups define themselves in terms of the West as what they are or are not. Recognizing the Occupy Wall Street movement positionality did not increase or decrease the strength of their argument. It just gave me another way to analyze them and understand my own immersion in the dominant structure striving to maintain hegemony.

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