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Occupy Pittsburgh & the Challenges of Participatory Democracy

Smith, Jackie and Bob, Glidden (2012) Occupy Pittsburgh & the Challenges of Participatory Democracy. Social Movement Studies, 11 (3-4). 288 - 294.

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Local manifestations of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) have emerged around the world with enthusiasm for the participatory style used in Zuccotti Park (New York). However, less attention has been paid to earlier lessons about the limits of these techniques for building diverse and sustainable movements. Much of the discussion in the United States ignores how OWS is connected to the long-term and global struggle against corporate-led globalization. Also, models of consensus practiced in many OWS sites have become reified to the verge of fetishization. Activists in the U.S. have yet to effectively incorporate many lessons from global justice activism, including the need for a global analysis and strategy as well as greater sensitivity to how consensus practices can exclude people most harmed by the structures the movement opposes. This essay draws from our involvement in Occupy Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) and in the U.S. and World Social Forums (WSF) to compare the participatory democratic practices in each setting and identify lessons about organizing broad coalitions against capitalist globalization. Smith has participated in several World Social Forums and is on the National Planning Committee of the U.S. Social Forum. She and Glidden are co-facilitators of the outreach working group of Occupy Pittsburgh. Glidden participated in both U.S. Social Forums and in the Greens movement in the United States prior to his work in Occupy Pittsburgh.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Smith, Jackiejgsmith@pitt.eduJGSMITH0000-0002-4808-0391
Bob, Glidden
Date: 2012
Date Type: Publication
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Journal or Publication Title: Social Movement Studies
Volume: 11
Number: 3-4
Page Range: 288 - 294
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Refereed: Yes
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2016 18:30
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2019 14:55


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