Occupy the Ghetto

You can either love or hate Jesse Jackson, but he long ago called for a Marshall Plan for America’s urban cities. It has been brought up by the President or any of the other democratic nominees for the presidency in the 2008 election. But this is not on the “occupation” agenda, but it would not only condemn Wall Street, but more appropriately, condemn the “occupiers” and their parents. As the Kerner Commission noted in 1968, “What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” Simply put, by not being enraged by the condition of the “hood”, the “occupiers” and their parents have implicitly condoned the conditions there. Of course, now that the unemployment rate affecting “Main Street” and not just King Drive, there is a certifiable crisis and something must be done about it.

Bryan K. Bullock

The Occupy Movement hasn’t formed a structural critique that could understand all crises as symptomatic of a common underlying problem.  This lack of deep analysis and historical contextualization is understandable, but it does leave the movement vulnerable to internal divisions, so the benefit of developing such a critique is considerable.

Bullock astutely points out that, “…it wasn’t Wall Street that created white flight from the cities.”  A structural critique, then, would have to incorporate not only economics, but ideology (in this case, racism) too.  Austrian-American Marxist psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich attempted this in his essay, Ideology As Material Power:

The character structures which correspond to a certain historical situation are formed in early childhood and are much more conservative than the forces of technical production.  It follows that, as time goes on, the psychological structures lag behind the development of the social conditions from which they stemmed and which progress rapidly…

By molding human psychological structure, social ideology…becomes a material force…[which] makes possible the retroaction of social ideology on the economic base from which it stemmed.

In other words, economy/ideology is productive of economy/ideology.  Reich therefore proposed, “a practical program which opposes the reactionary psychological forces with revolutionary forces,” as a necessary component of a larger revolutionary project.  One could argue that the occupations themselves are examples of such a practical program.

Bullock would have it that Occupy the Hood’s supposed emphasis on ideology should take precedence over Occupy Wall Street’s supposed emphasis on economics.  In fact, neither occupation has such narrow concerns, and it’s possible to both fold economics and ideology back into a larger structure that incorporates such divisions, and build solidarity within the expanding movement.


Filed under: activism, movements, occupy, , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: