expanding the organizing toolkit
As the first anniversary of OWS passes, we’re starting to see publications by researchers that both describe and attempt to assess the potential impact of such organizing efforts in the US and elsewhere. One is Todd Gitlin‘s Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street. Those who have kept up with OWS won’t be surprised by such nuggets as Denver OWS’s election of a border collie to meet the mayor who insisted on working with a leader from a “leaderless” movement. Nonetheless, most readers will benefit from Gitlin’s contextualization of OWS’s organizing practices. For instance, chapter 4 discusses the human microphone‘s appearance in the antiglobalization movement, and chapter 6 covers other antecedents such as the Wobblies and SDS.
The longterm impact of such movements may be evident in participants’ expansion of their organizing toolkits with less familiar practices. However, as I reminded my students yesterday during a discussion of Wal-Mart’s workplace practices and their own experiences in the retail work and the service sector, such moments of action are often lost from history, even from academic accounts. Given the many gloomy studies of how organizations don’t serve larger interests, the absence of alternative examples can reinforce a sense that the status quo is inevitable, that alternative paths are not possible, or that taking action is fraught with overwhelming pitfalls that disenchant participants.
Have recommendations for readings on alternative organizing practices for change? Put them in the comments.
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