Occupy Wall Street Commons and the Capitalist’s Enclosures


As the Occupy Wall street protests continue, so are the questions about the future of global financial institutions, trade, social inequality, and the environment. The world faces the prospect of a new era in which traditional models of economic and financial interactions will no longer stand the test of times, and therefore should be redefined.  We are the 99%, as a political slogan is the central theme of the current wave of protests. The movement is rapidly transforming itself into a global call for reforms on the global Capitalist and Financial systems. As it all unfold, one thing that stands out is the conflict of interest between the commons and the threat of enclosures.

The movement has spread to more than 30 cities in the US and there are now new forms of protests around the world, including London and Calcutta, all linked to the Occupy Wall Street protest.  With the downgrading of the US economy; the financial crisis and joblessness in Europe and the impact on the Climate, is this change eminent?

‘Commoning’ as a process continues to draw people together to pursue a common course. The diversity of emerging groups and their ability
to utilize a common space for a common good, explains the complex nature of the protests and the dynamics of commoning.  Regardless of the diversity, the protests has been sustained by common pool resources.  Added to social, environmental and humanitarian groups, the latest group to emerge is the OCCUPY MARINES, who were inspired by US Marine Sergeant (an Iraqi War veteran), who successfully prevented police
assault on Occupy Wall Street Protesters. He then called on all US Marines from all divisions to join the peaceful protest.

Notwithstanding the merits of the protests and it global acknowledgement, the movement faces the threat of enclosure. The protest continues to meet resistant from capitalist institutions and some sections of the press, who have adopting an anti-Occupy Wall Street stance. Since its
inception, there has been a conscious effort to contain the movement. Hundreds, if not thousands have already been arrested in connection to these protests. In New York, protesters, faces forceful eviction. In London St. Paul’s Cathedral, protesters are under pressure to abandon the protest, as the Cathedral is closed to visitors on health and safety reasons. There is already a call to delegitimize the movement, as an additional form of enclosure. In the absence of a clear cut leadership, will these enclosures silent the movement?  Will it leads to Plurality of ownership? Or
will the commons prevail?



2 Responses to “Occupy Wall Street Commons and the Capitalist’s Enclosures”

  1. annesternchen Says:

    I thank you, John, for covering this important topic. To get my own picture of the Occupy London incidents, I set out for St. Paul’s Cathedral the day before yesterday. In fact, I was able to capture some interesting moments.

    Having just arrived, I overheard a conversation between an older pedestrian and two policemen. The lady asked how long the protest will still go on. She pulled a grim face. Obviously not everybody agrees with the peaceful occupation of common ground…

    I chatted with one of the demonstrators named Anthony. I asked him why he headed for the camp close to one of London’s sights. He answered with “showing support”. From his point of view, the system is absolutely false and misguided. The current crisis is a result of irresponsible behaviour. The bearded man with the pirate headscarf has no doubt that the change can be brought about and that there exist alternatives “if people start looking at the wider picture instead of their own wallets”. He made the comparison to construction work. They find solutions for new problems in that field every day, he argued. Asked for concrete alternatives, Anthony referred to the situation within the labour market. In his opinion, it is important that everybody can work. You have to come up against recession with investment and not by cutting jobs. I dared to say that investments would be aimed at economic growth again, which means capitalism and its enclosures he actually combats. Unfortunately I did not get a satisfying reply to my objection. Anthony confessed openly that change is a long process on which you have to work hard. He just knows that he does not agree with the concept of capitalism because it is unsustainable. The often associated idea of globalisation could work out, if everybody tries to realise it equally. It must make you think that out of the 500 richest companies in the world, the top 10 are collectively wealthier than the other 490. If there is already such a discrepancy amongst them, surely the inequality between the rich and the poor is intolerable, says the man.

    It was Anthony’s first day at St. Paul’s. He was visibly happy to join the commoning, to be with others of the movement – despite the cold and rain. He would love it if the protest is there for a long time. Low temperatures do not put him off. Finally I asked the controversial question of the empty tents during the nights, which I have read about. According to Anthony, the reason is surely due to the weather. Nevertheless, he is certain that the majority of the community does not sleep somewhere else, but together in the bigger tents to keep each other warm.

    Beside the demonstrator I spoke with a lady who read the posters hanging on the information tent and gathered material like me. We laughed together about one poster which proclaims the occupation of Finsbury and promises more comfortable camping, agreeing that sleeping outdoors would not be for us. We came to speak about possible alternatives of the capitalism and were both more or less clueless.

    I wandered around a bit more and read things like “The government has a credit card without limit and you are the collateral!” or “We want everyone to wake up to the beauty of what we can create” on the posters everywhere. Many different topics are mentioned by this diverse group of individuals with varying agendas but one overall goal, peaceful change for a better world. I listened to Christian political poems as well as rap including words like “capitalism”, “utopia” or “underground”. Impressed by the organisation, peace and especially the considerate behaviour towards the church, I went on my way home.

    I have to confess that I did not collect new insights and that I can not answer the questions John has raised after my visit. But I can, however, recommend seeing with your own eyes, this protest which is already writing history.

  2. ngoziokei Says:

    The occupy wall street protest, that is spreading around USA and the St Paul gathering/protest in London is a serious issue that will raise a lot of questions about the global financial institutions, trade, social inequality and the environment. I don’t think that the commons will be able to prevail, since there is a absence of a clear cut leadership and the use of government power carried out. There could be a possibility of these enclosures to silence the movement, by laying down any kind of law to prevent or weakening the strenght of the movement participation. For example the law of publishing to the commons, not to use an amplification system in a public space. Despite the absence of leadership, it will be difficult to silence the movement of the commons, because it is difficult to break the cord of large commons, that are commoning in one agreement, that which is valued to their lives/livelihood and generations to come.
    http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/ctv News

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