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The intellectual foundations of the Occupy Wall Street movement

By Frank J. Vandall

One of the chief attacks on the Occupy Wall Street Movement is that it has no articulated rational basis. It’s just a bunch of unwashed neo-hippies who are wasting time, public resources, and park space while not looking for a job.

Careful attention to Occupy Wall Street protester interviews manifests four foundational demands, however:
(1) We [the movement] want justice.
(2) Wall Street’s wrongs have driven the nation into a recession.
(3) We are the 99% and have been ignored by government.
(4) We want jobs.

There is substantial intellectual support for the core ideas of the movement.

First, there is no transcendent rule of law because corporate power controls Congress. Justice favors the corporations. Therefore the movement claims they haven’t received justice.

Second, it is widely acknowledged that powerful Wall Street investment firms abetted the home mortgage fiasco. The SEC’s failure to identify and prosecute Bernie Madoff for his high profile Ponzi scheme (it was the FBI that eventually arrested and successfully prosecuted him) is indicative that the SEC viewed him as one of the boys. The finger of blame points at the SEC’s pro-Wall Street ethic.

Photos from October 6, Day 21 of Occupy Wall Street. Photo by David Shankbone.

Third, the continual barrage of lobbyists, who represent the financial interest of corporations and other powerful groups, strongly affect Congress and government agencies. Indeed, Mitt Romney, a former investment firm CEO who is running for president, recently stated: “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” The Occupy Wall Street movement claims that they are in the 99% who, while making up the majority of the population, have little influence upon government.

Fourth, over the last 20 years American manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to foreign countries. The result is that we are now faced with an unemployment rate that hovers above eight percent. The outsourcing of manufacturing jobs means that now many potential purchasers lack money to spend. This has led to the closing of numerous factories and local businesses. The result has been the loss of jobs for line workers, managers, college graduates, and PhDs. The exportation of hundreds of thousands of jobs has been with the blessings of corporate America and the government. They should have foreseen that the 99% would need jobs in order to pay their mortgages and buy cars.

Because of its intellectual foundations, the Occupy Wall Street movement will lead to long-delayed regulation and oversight of banks and businesses. Shipping jobs abroad will slow greatly and will be seen for what it is. The Occupy Wall Street movement will be studied in MBA and JD courses, and some of the neo-hippies will take those classes and later teach them. Some, of course, will accept jobs on Wall Street.

Professor Frank J. Vandall is the author of A History of Civil Litigation: Political and Economic Perspectives. He teaches first-year torts and advanced courses in products liability and torts. A member of the Emory faculty since 1970, Professor Vandall has served as scholar-in-residence at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the London School of Economics. Professor Vandall was the Roger Traynor Research Professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law during 1993.

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3 Responses to “The intellectual foundations of the Occupy Wall Street movement”
  1. Linnea says:

    Did you know that most of people occupying have jobs?: http://occupywallst.org/article/70-percent-ows-supporters-independent/ Also, a good handful of them used to work on Wall Street. You should see the paper the Alternate Banking group at OWS filed with the SEC.

    Also, this isn’t about new hippies or old hippies, it’s about economic justice and government co-optation by corporations. I’m disappointed you didn’t cover the roots of the financial crisis a bit more. What the banks did was actually illegal and most of details of their fraud are still unknown by the public. (Although, folks like Matt Taibbi are helping bring it to light.) Take this article for instance: http://occupywallst.org/article/70-percent-ows-supporters-independent/ It does a good job of explaining the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the banks’ criminal actions.

  2. The Occupy Movement is NECESSARY for our citizens to expose the corruption which Big Business has infected our Government with. Every single person occupying the streets and protesting Corporations is a hero and a patriot. I was compelled to lend a hand and create some new posters for the movement which you can download for free on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/11/propaganda-for-occupy-movement.html

  3. Gail Nash says:

    Very good. Now if they could just get to the specifics of the crisis and some possible solutions.

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