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Posts Tagged ‘OWS

democracy and direct action according to David Graeber

For those of us who wish to consider the implications of recent worldwide events, three of anthropologist David Graeber‘s books offer a deeper understanding of relatively unfamiliar organizing practices and their relationship with democracy:

(1) Direct Action: An Ethnography (2009, AK Press)

(2) Revolution in Reverse (or, on the conflict between political ontologies of violence and political
ontologies of the imagination)
(2007)

(3) The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (2013, Random House)

Fabio’s previous posts covered one of Graeber’s most famous books Debt. For those of us who teach and practice orgtheory, Graeber’s work on direct action and criticisms of bureaucracy offer much-needed insight into how collectivities can gel in taking action. In particular, his in-depth account of how groups make decisions by consensus offers rich examples that can help students and practitioners understand the steps involved, as well as the pitfalls and benefits of these alternatives to topdown orders. (Other examples in the research literature include Francesca Polletta’s research on SDS and my own work on Burning Man – see chapter 3 of Enabling Creative Chaos: The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event).

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Written by katherinechen

June 21, 2013 at 7:00 pm

see you at ess in Boston, March 21-24, 2013

Going to Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) annual meeting in Boston on Thur., March 21 through Sun., March 24? Details about the ESS conference are available here.

Here’s a special plug for a “conversation” between senior scholars about organizations:

3:30-5pm, Fri., March 22, 2013
156.Organizations and Societal Resilience: How Organizing Practices Can Either Inhibit or Enable Sustainable Communities Conversation
Whittier Room (4th Flr)
Organizer:Katherine Chen, City University of New York
Presider: Katherine Chen, City University of New York
Discussants: George Ritzer, University of Maryland
Carmen Sirianni, Brandeis University

Here are several examples of other panels and presentations relevant to orgtheory:
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Written by katherinechen

March 8, 2013 at 2:43 am

new OWS report now available from the Murphy Institute, CUNY

CUNY colleagues at the Murphy Institute have produced a downloadable report based on their survey and interviews of OWSers about the OWS social movement. Here’s a description of the report:

“Faculty members Ruth Milkman, Stephanie Luce, and Penny Lewis co-authored Changing the Subject: A Bottom-Up Account of Occupy Wall Street in New York City. The research team surveyed 729 protesters at a May 1, 2011 Occupy march and rally in New York City, and conducted extensive interviews with 25 people who were core activists in the movement. The survey used a methodology developed and widely deployed in Europe for the study of large protest demonstrations to obtain a representative sample of participants. This report provides the most systematic demographic snapshot available of the Occupy movement and also explores the reasons why it gained traction with the public, making the issue of economic inequality central in the nation’s political debate. The study also shows that the movement had a pre-history, with strong links to previous U.S. social movements, and a post-history, with activities continuing long after the eviction of the Park. While Occupy may have faded from daily headlines after the protesters’ eviction from Zuccotti Park, the issues it sparked and the activism it inspired remain very much alive.”

The report’s descriptions of OWS’s democratic organizational practices, as well as subsequent Occupy Sandy relief efforts, may be of particular interest to orgheads.

In addition, those in the NYC area might like to participate in this semester’s line-up of papers on OWS at the Politics and Protest workshop, organized by John Krinsky and Jim Jasper, at the Graduate Center. The workshop follows Chuck Tilly’s rules of etiquette.

Written by katherinechen

February 4, 2013 at 10:44 pm

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.

Written by katherinechen

October 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Posted in books, social movements

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