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ANARCHISM AND PREFIGURATIVE POLITICS IN THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT: A STUDY OF OCCUPIED SPACE, HORIZONTAL STRUCTURE, AND ANARCHIST THEORY IN PRACTICE

Skoczylas, Marie (2016) ANARCHISM AND PREFIGURATIVE POLITICS IN THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT: A STUDY OF OCCUPIED SPACE, HORIZONTAL STRUCTURE, AND ANARCHIST THEORY IN PRACTICE. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, 2011, when hundreds of people with grievances regarding the current political and economic system in the United States, and inspired by the Arab Spring and anti-austerity protests overseas, occupied a park in the financial district in New York City. Over the next several weeks, Occupy groups formed in cities across the U.S. and around the world as tens of thousands of people joined the movement. Participants used horizontal organizing structures and carried out practices in the occupied spaces meant to deconstruct concentrations of power and forge new economic, political, and interpersonal relations. These approaches characterize anarchist theory in practice today. Anarchists established the Occupy model but the majority of participants did not identify with the philosophical tradition. Participants struggled with making the non-hierarchical structures work, and most occupations were evicted by winter 2012, foreclosing the possibility of using the spaces as laboratories for further social experimentation with small-scale solutions for societal transformation. However, the member-led, space-taking approaches of the Occupy model continue to inspire anti-austerity protesters today.

In this dissertation, I examine what happens when a mass movement uses anarchist approaches. I interviewed 57 participants of the Occupy Movement in three cities: New York City; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Oakland, California. Analyzing conflicts revealed deep political disagreements among participants about the way society should work. I argue that participants must have political affinity and a commitment to the practices meant to enact shared values, including: a willingness to engage in ongoing experimentation, which requires a suspension of static, authoritative knowledge about the best way to struggle; a desire for harmony instead of unity; and an embrace of conflict as part of a culture that accepts a fluid and unstable existence, desiring liberation through continuous negotiation. I find both prefigurative and instrumental approaches were present and strategic, and that conflict centered on trying to maintain their co-existence. I challenge scholars’ misrepresentations of anarchism, and examine what constitutes anarchism today, discovering it is better described as a balancing act between prefigurative aims and a desire for autonomy.


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Details

Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Skoczylas, Mariembs@pitt.eduMBS
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBlee, Kathleenkblee@pitt.eduKBLEE
Committee MemberStaggenborg, Suzannesuzstagg@pitt.eduSUZSTAGG
Committee MemberBamyeh, Mohammedmab205@pitt.eduMAB205
Committee MemberGlazener, Nancyglazener@pitt.eduGLAZENER
Date: 15 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2016
Approval Date: 15 June 2016
Submission Date: 7 April 2016
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 259
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Prefiguration, prefigurative politics, horizontalism, anarchism, anarchist theory, anarchist practice, occupation, Occupy Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Pittsburgh, Occupy Oakland, social movement
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2016 17:19
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:32
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/27602

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