Neoliberalism and the Occupy Movement

The two articles I chose to read were Neoliberalism and the Urban Condition and The ‘Occupy Movement: Emerging Protest Forms and Contested Urban Spaces. I first read the Occupy article and immediately started noticing themes we have discussed in class and in the book, such as the use of spaces, the importance of alpha cities, the role of social issues in state formation, state’s use of power and other issues. The article about neoliberalism discusses the contested meaning of the term and better explains what some of it’s conditions are. Once I started getting into it, I found it very easy to link the two articles together.

Neoliberalism is hard to define with a single term. It is better to look at it as a set of propositions. The first being that neoliberalism is a process. It does not claim to be the perfect and is subject to change, such as what the Occupy movement is doing. Another is that it is highly contested and that it exacerbates regulatory failure. Both of these are explicitly linked to the Occupy movement. The last is that the project of neoliberalism continues to evolve, much in the way it is today with the Occupy movement changing public space and contesting regulatory actions. Neoliberalism focuses on capital accumulation the best way to achieve this. Political and urban elites formed alliances by the ceding of power to certain groups and created social struggles for the average person. This is because the interests of these alliances were not that of the people, but that of accumulating as much wealth as possible. They strategized to gain control over key regulatory arenas such as economic, environmental, and transportation policy. This lead to a changing social structure that was needed for the creation of the Occupy movement. Public needs were being addressed by the private sector merely to generate profit and suite the goals of the ruling elite. One of the examples used was the mass-transit policies are increasingly favoring the interest of suburban commuters, while low-income, central city, mass-transit-dependent residents witnessed significant cutbacks in transit funding.

Neoliberalism has changed the focus of the government from catering to civilians to catering to large, profit producing corporations. It has taken the public and made it private for capitol gains. This has created contested public spaces in which the Occupy movement has taken place. Through the use of new technology, the movement has formed and grown. The originators of the Occupy movement studied different forms of protest from other countries and created a strategy using what they found. They states use of power to stop the protest only strengthened it through public media, even though in the beginning the media was used as a deterrent to bash the protesters.

At the end of the day, neoliberalism can be linked to the widening income gap which is the cause of the Occupy movement. It changed the social structure, created political alliances not in the interest of the people, changed the meaning of public spaces and key regulatory arenas. This is most evident in large cities and this is why the Occupy movement has taken place in urban landscapes. The issues are supralocal and alpha cities are supralocal.

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