In late 2010, I finished my book The Right to Look and added this sentence:
In short, the choice is between continuing to move on and authorizing authority or claiming that there is something to see and democraticizing democracy.
Months later, the Arab Spring began and then spread to Europe and finally the Americas in the form of Occupy. So it never seemed a contradiction to me that I would be involved in Occupy.
I have often been asked how I found the time to write a post every day. It’s true that I have seen very little TV over the past year and I have no idea what’s been happening with music. But for the most part, it’s been a simple choice: this is how I choose to spend my time. It’s not been that difficult.
That said, I do want to acknowledge here that this has been a team effort and it would not have been possible without the support and forbearance of my partner Kathleen and daughter Hannah. Because the whole project has been about creating the hope for a better future I want to formally dedicate it to them.
What does that mean? My feeling all along has been that the purpose of occupying 2012 was not to change the world system in 2012, or any other overarching transformative goal. It was to maintain the possibility of a space in US society where we could think about democratizing democracy, a space where radical thought and action was practiced on a sustainable basis. There was a concerted effort on the part of government and media alike to define “Occupy” as a brief moment of rebellion in 2011. As we move into 2013 with a transformed and revitalized movement, I think we have resisted that enclosure.
As the first snow lies on the ground, we realize that the season for direct out-of-doors action is past. The Winter is our friend: it is a time we can dedicate to recuperation, recharging and rethinking. The rethinking needs first to imagine a different politics. In 2012, it was impossible to have a discussion about politics because the Presidential election intruded so forcefully. Now that it’s over, the multi-billion dollar extravaganza appears like a phantasmagoria: was there ever a person called Mitt Romney? And did any of that make the slightest difference to anything?
At this point in a social movement, the call goes out to recast the political. I’ve called this democratic autonomy. It involves setting aside the formulas of “the left,” not in favor of some bland consensus, but in order to try and determine how it might be possible to create radical change now. Perhaps the greatest obstacle in the past months to this goal has become the tedious sectarianism of a left whose pronouncements echo within its own chambers via corporate social media but very little elsewhere. This challenge is not unforeseen or unprecedented.
If past experience is anything to go by, any such “post-left” moves will be greeted as reactionary, uncomradely and so on by The Jacobin and its ilk. I remember similar attacks on cultural studies and Stuart Hall’s analysis of Thatcherism from the New Left Review in the 1980s, right up until the time that the NLR relaunched itself using precisely the same ideas in its new series beginning in 2000. This might sound more snarky than I intend. I just want to suggest that there’s a resistance to moments of reconfiguration, often highly principled, that later comes to a broad agreement. But the interim squabbling is so far from productive or useful.
Let’s dedicate the next year to using the space we have created for those to whom we owe everything, our friends, our families, those we love and care for.