This document is a subsection of New Media and Social Movements > Occupy Wall Street

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Occupy Wall Street: Context

Occupy Wall Street: How did it all begin?

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is an ongoing manifestation of a global movement that started on September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park in New York City and spread to other cities nationally and internationally. The brand “Occupy” became a characteristic of the unifying global movement calling for justice, economic equality, equality before law, and freedom of speech. Occupy Wall Street is a social movement defined by shared enemy, shared tactics, and shared identity. The protesters claim an inspiration from the Arab Spring movements in 2011. The OWS is characterized as a grass root movement using social media and non-traditional news sources to deliver its message.1


Occupy Mapping

As the OWS movement went viral online/offline and spread to various parts of the world, efforts to map all the movements associated with OWS resulted into creation of maps that capture the global reach of this movement.

To view the “Occupy” world map

To view the “Occupy” arrests map

To view “Occupy” social media map

Unemployment Rate vs. Corporate profits in the US

The range of goals and demands Occupy Wall Street movement attracts is wide, while the Demands Working Group favored a fairly concrete set of national policy proposals, others within the movement prefer a looser, more localized set of goals and they have put together a competing document, the Liberty Square Blueprint, a page still undergoing changes. The introduction to the draft document reads: "Demands cannot reflect inevitable success. Demands imply condition, and we will never stop. Demands cannot reflect the time scale that we are working with."

The unemployment is at the highest level since the Great Depression but for a moment in the 80s:

A record percentage of people have been unemployed for more than six months:

On the other hand corporate profits are high:

Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low -- i.e., corporations pay less of a share to employees than they ever have: main-qimg-5d820da6193893fc8006aafba3a5e515.png

It's worth noting that the US has been in a similar situation before: At the end of the "Roaring '20s," just before the start of the Great Depression. It took the country 15-20 years to pull out of that slump and fix the imbalances. But by the mid-1950s, employment, corporate profits, wages, and inequality had all returned to more normal levels and the U.S. enjoyed a couple of decades of relatively well-balanced prosperity. But the current situation is too similar to what became the Great Depression. Importantly, the inequality that has developed in the economy over the past couple of decades is not just a moral issue. It's a practical one. It is, as sociologists might say, "de-stabilizing." It leads directly to the sort of social unrest that we're seeing right now.

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