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    No Stable Ground: Real Democracy in the Occupy Movement

    Szolucha, Anna (2014) No Stable Ground: Real Democracy in the Occupy Movement. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This thesis documents and analyses various aspects of the Occupy movement in Dublin and Cork in Ireland as well as the San Francisco Bay Area (Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley) in the United States. The core focus of this investigation is Occupy’s direct democratic processes and dynamics both as a way of making decisions as well as organising collectively. I draw on militant ethnographic, movement-relevant and participatory action research as well as on the theoretical concepts of Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan in order to develop an embedded and nuanced, contemporary understanding of the nature of political engagement and direct democracy in the Occupy movement and beyond. The research shows what direct democracy actually looks like. If I were to point to one thing that the Occupy movement taught its participants, it would be that direct democracy, as practised by real people in real situations, is not always this ideal of a non-alienating, self-transparent way of making collective decisions and engaging in actions. This research highlights the realities of the movement situation where the participants had to negotiate uncertainty with their responsibility and commitment to Occupy and the issues that it raised. The analysis also brings out the complexity of Occupy’s temporalities of living “real democracy” that does not simply mean “substantive” as opposed to the “void” liberal representational form of democracy. In my usage, real democracy signifies the lived experience of people's political engagement that is radical yet riddled with inconsistencies and uncertainties. The analysis outlines also the framework of “real politics” – a politics that accepts the constitutive lack of the political sphere, the contradictory demands at the basis of democracy, the irreducibility of social antagonisms and alterity. In this thesis, I am interested in giving an account of and analysing the subjective realities of Occupy participants' political engagement with change. I also claim that this engagement represents an innovative approach to democracy which may constitute an alternative to the current liberal representative politics of the Western world. This thesis hopes to feed back in to movements an understanding of social action as inescapably complex and often contradictory in nature, which is positive since it affirms movements’ radical agency (movements do not unfold in an automatic or a structurally determined way but make active interventions into their situations).

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Real Democracy; Occupy Movement;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology
    Item ID: 7761
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2017 12:19

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