Occupy Nation by Todd Gitlin

A must read—Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street, by Todd Gitlin.

It seems like a long time since Occupy held my riveted attention–and probably yours too.  I went into NYC several times last fall to visit Zuccotti Park.  It was an exhilarating experience—which is hard to describe now.  It was made even nicer by finding James De La Vega and his friends and relatives there.  He was our student at Central Park East ore than 30 year ago—maybe 40? —whose thoughtful wisdom at age 5 has remained with me for years, as well as his special artistic talent,  He does many kinds of art—but is perhaps best known for is graffiti art. We hugged and laughed and took pictures of each other in many poses—with and without friends and relatives.

So, how nice that my friend Todd Gitlin wrote a book about Occupy—focused on Zucotti but going beyond,   He captures everything I loved about it as well as the mistaken  reasons that I would definitely have advised against it, if I had been asked.  Fortunately, I wasn’t.  They did exactly what Ted Sizer tried to do when starting the Coalition of Essential Schools in 1985 (whose its 17th birthday will take place on Nov 9-11 in Providence).   They both  “changed the conversation.”

Gitlin both celebrates Occupy and tries to understand its role in our future.  It’s not a pessimistic account even though OCCUPY, like all the rest of us,  hasn’t figured out what to do with the energy they helped create, in lieu of obstacles everywhere for “occupying” space.

We’ll see.   Read it and learn from it—because we need their spirit to re-occupy center stage in educational circles tool

6 Responses

  1. […] Occupy Nation by Todd Gitlin. Share this:FacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  2. “OCCUPY, like all the rest of us, hasn’t figured out what to do with the energy they helped create,”
    Deb, this shouldn’t be too surprising. The intellectual driving force of Occupy is the problem, hardly a source for the solution.

    Yes, there’s a real disparity in wages, accumulated over the past 40 years. Does that timespan sound familiar? It’s also the span of government “fixing poverty”.

    A huge real problem is that minimum wage has never kept up with the growth in GDP. Why? Because it’s not tied to the marketplace.

    Instead, while waged determined by the market grow in line with GDP, wages determined by the federal min wage law grow only with inflation..much slower.

    Occupiers have never learned economics, so they don’t get why the wage law is a wage anchor.

    • 40 years–’72-’12. Right? Remind me how many of those years were built around a progressive agenda? How about 1920-30?

      Correlations are always tricky–you might note that the disparities coincide with the decline of the trade union movement? Or deregulation starting with Clinton? Or with the introduction of mass standardized testing? or…

      But you’ve stimulated me to go back to the record and track some of this stuff.


      • There are a whole raft of jobs for which pay is simply the federal minimum wage. Even if it doesn’t apply!

        For example, in Ohio for years, most employers were subject only to Ohio’s state minimum wage–$2.80 when the Federal min was $4.75, 5.15, etc. But most employers almost uniformly paid the higher, Fed rate.

        Why? Because the Feds put a big poster in every break room with a huge “It’s the Law–$5.25”.

        Thus, many employers paid far more than the law demanded. In other words, the federal law had a stronger psychological effect on prices than its legal effect!

        Now, what about the flipped case? If the federal law can cause an employer to pay more than he legally has to, can it cause him to pay less than a free market rate?

        That is, can the big poster in the break room drive DOWN certain wages? Personal experience says it does.

      • Hmmm. That might be a good pint.

      • Deb, I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to hear you say that.

        I’ve never heard either side make this point; it’s just one that seemed obvious when I saw people doing hot, hard roofing work vs. people sitting at an air conditioned, low-traffic sales clerk job–for the same pay!

        How to fix it is another question.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: