The Occupy Wall Street protest is innovative from a technical viewpoint, as a protest form.
OWS is creating some news and some controlled chaos, and that is probably a good thing.
As a political movement, it is more about crowd psychology than anything else. The OWS folks don’t know what they want, and as a collective they don’t even seem to understand what they are against.
For instance, there are tons of signs and blog posts about “Corporatism.” They don’t even know what it means. Look it up. Corporatism is probably closer to what they want than what they are protesting.
Corporatism, also known as corporativism, is a system of economic, political, or social organization that involves association of the people of society into corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common interests. Corporatism is theoretically based upon the interpretation of a community as an organic body. The term corporatism is based on the Latin root “corp” meaning “body”.
In 1881, Pope Leo XIII commissioned theologians and social thinkers to study corporatism and provide a definition for it. In 1884 in Freiburg, the commission declared that corporatism was a “system of social organization that has at its base the grouping of men according to the community of their natural interests and social functions, and as true and proper organs of the state they direct and coordinate labor and capital in matters of common interest.”
Corporatism is related to the sociological concept of structural functionalism. Corporate social interaction is common within kinship groups such as families, clans and ethnicities. Aside from humans, certain animal species are known to exhibit strong corporate social organization, such as penguins.
Corporatist types of community and social interaction are common to many ideologies, including: absolutism, capitalism, conservatism, fascism, liberalism, progressivism, reactionism, socialism, and syndicalism.
I recently received a copy of Guillaume Faye’s Why We Fight: Manifesto of the European Resistance. Faye believes that we have been living for some time under a “pseudo-democratic” form of “soft totalitarianism” and that our economies suffer from the “combined disadvantages of both capitalism and socialism.” I’m inclined to agree. Some people think we need more capitalism and others think we need more socialism. European socialism has long been the daydream utopia of privileged American progressives who have fond memories of ski vacations and French class trips. But Europeans are protesting, too. More socialism hasn’t worked for them. The libertarian and neo-con American Right wants more capitalism, mostly because it’s American as apple pie and hippies hate it. A “freer” market is guaranteed to result in more outsourced jobs and more selling of American companies to global organizations that are bigger than whatever “fat cats” the naive OWS movement is protesting.
Why We Fight is organized as a dictionary of ideas. I don’t necessarily endorse or agree with all of them, but in flipping through it I found a few terms that I thought were particularly relevant and well-defined. Some highlights below:
The belief that the systematic melange of cultures is preferable to the identity of each culture — the belief that comes from the prejudice that some sort of world civilization is necessary. [..]
Cosmopolitanism is nothing but failed differentialism. Its ideal of mixing cultures for the sake of creating a single world culture is essentially totalitarian. With its simulacrum of heterogeneity, there lurks a will to uniformity.
The planetary universalization of exchange, circuits of economic production and finance, along with information; the internationalization of culture.
These phenomena create an environment where globally oriented companies with allegiance to no nation or people can become unstoppable juggernauts, subverting State and popular interests. Start a union and demand better wages. Company X finds or imports people who will work for less.
It’s not about a handful of “Mr. Burns” characters — the 1% is a distraction. The real problem is that legal entities designed only to create profit are doing exactly what they were designed to do, and these supranational entities exist independently of any State that might reign them in. They are post-national Leviathans without sovereigns, mindlessly crawling around the globe and sucking it dry. The Left’s attachment to multicultural cosmopolitanism erodes barriers between nations and frees the beast to move.
The theory according to which the market is the sole basis of order and prosperity.
International mercantilism is the official doctrine of contemporary economic thought — the official doctrine of the corporations, the banks, and the European Commission. The exchanges and profits it generates take precedence over notions of production, full employment, independence or supply. Hence, outsourcing and the abolition of tariff barriers.
Mercantilism is the default religion of the United States, and those on the mainstream right are often its most faithful defenders. The businessman is a saint to America’s Republican talking heads from Glenn Beck to Lars Larson and Rush Limbaugh. If a businessman chooses to hire illegal immigrants because Americans demand higher compensation and a higher quality of life, he may be slapped on the wrist but will rarely be accused of criminal enterprise. Americans are asked to feel sorry for him, and more often than not, they will defend him. Someone who is making money is “succeeding,” no matter what they do or how they do it. People want to be them and be around them. They want to watch television shows about them and know what cars they drive. No one judges them unless they run for public office, when the public hypocritically expects them to be knights in shining armor — knowing full well that no one gets very far in America without cheating or fucking people over or generally acting like an asshole. No, the business man “create jobs” and “fuels the economy” and “supports all of those do-nothing losers.”
Instead of screaming at the sky and complaining about “corporatism” — which is what many of them really want — Americans and Europeans alike need to reassess their own values, the values of both the socialist Left and the free-market Right. Across-the-board commitments to Cosmopolitanism, Globalization and Mercantilism make it possible for these hungry, immoral beasts to slither across nations and devour everything worth having, leaving a scum trail of cheap technology to keep us busy and imported goods that keep keep us all fat and happy.
A reader pointed out that Faye’s “mercantilism,” too, is at odds with historical definitions of the word in much the same way that the OWS definition of “corporatism” is at odds with its conventional definition.
I liked Faye’s definition of “mercantilism” as a catch-all for a merchant-class view of the world where making money is ennobled and virtus is dismissed as a joke for low class suckers by a population of people who are delighted to swindle each other. Now I remain in search of a good word that isn’t already taken.
The Populist Moment, Chapter 11, Part 4: “Multitudes” Against the People
The Populist Moment, Chapter 11, Part 3: “Multitudes” Against the People
The Populist Moment, Chapter 11, Part 2: “Multitudes” Against the People
The Populist Moment, Chapter 11, Part 1: “Multitudes” Against the People
The Populist Moment, Chapter 10, Part 1: The Ambiguity of “Communitarianism”
Pox Populi on Greg Johnson’s “Against Imperialism”
Big Trouble in the Little Baltic: How Capital Wrecks Nations
The Populist Moment, Chapter 9, Part 2: “Conservatives of the Left” & the Critique of Value