Occupy and the 99%

Spring 2015

This article is based on qualitative research into how activists in the UK Occupy movement understand their social and political identities, and those of the movement as a whole, and suggests that Occupy activists had a reasonably well-developed political and economic vision, combining ‘participatory democracy’ with ‘social justice’. In spite of this relative clarity of this vision, however, the Occupy movement’s approach to strategy and communication was confused and ambiguous. This ambiguity is attributed to the fact that Occupy activists seemed to lack a coherent sociopolitical identity that linked their political principles with their social identities and interests. This hindered the ability of the movement to achieve unity, and the willingness of activists to embrace a leadership role. These findings are discussed in relation to Donatella Della Porta’s work on the ‘tolerant identities’ of today’s social movement activists, as well as to Jodi Dean’s arguments about the causes of the contemporary Left’s ‘melancholy’.

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