Occupy Wall Street-What would famous political theorists argue?

November 4, 2011

Political Theory


There have been many interesting things happening this month when considering the Occupy Wall Street movement. I have heard every opinion on the movement including those who support it, those who are against it, and every opinion in between. It seems to cause debate whenever it is brought up, so I think it would be interesting to bring it up on a blog and see how people(political theory students, in particular) would respond. We also discussed in class how the three different theorists’ arguments, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau would either support or criticize the Support Wall Street Movement.

In considering Hobbes, we must consider the social contract that his argument supported. His argument claimed that fear established the social contract and that fear keeps the social contract in place. Hobbes argument also supports the idea that active consent is not necessary to the social contract. In his argument, he believes that there is no contesting the social contract once it is in place. When we take a look at Occupy Wall Street, there is the 1% of the US population controlling 40% of the wealth. In general, Hobbes argument would most criticize the Occupy Wall Street movement because in his argument, there is a disagreement with the need to protest. His argument would support the 1% of Americans that are being criticized and if the social contract is in place there is no contesting.

Locke, however, had a different argument, one that supported individual rights. Most likely Locke would support the Occupy Wall Street movement because in his text, the majority should consent to how the 40% of wealth is being distributed and used in America. Rousseau’s argument would also most likely support the Occupy Wall Street Movement, considering his arguments stand for the general will and the “group”. The collective group is beyond the individual and in this case, the 99% are the collective group of people. However, is it probable to say that the 1% is also a collective group?

While we were discussing this in class, the point was brought up that the Occupy Wall Street Movement is a liberal stance against the Tea Party. If this is the case, are the people participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement liberals? Is it liberal to stand with the 99% of Americans? All of these are interesting questions that seemed to really get some people riled up in class. Regardless, I think it is interesting to think about the conservative/liberal dynamics to the OWS movement. In the same thought process, would that make Hobbes arguments more conservative rather than a liberal, or even Locke’s arguments more liberal rather than conservative?  No matter which way you look at it, it seems that the Occupy Wall Street Movement can be viewed under many different lights and is constantly being criticized and supported in the media.

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One Comment on “Occupy Wall Street-What would famous political theorists argue?”

  1. bsrobin Says:

    Occupy Wall Street has grown into a massive social movement and statement almost overnight. Hobbes, if he were to look at this, would still not argue against it. It was him who said any idea, whether right or wrong, is worth discussing in a social situation. We can only learn from the sharing and transfer of ideas and these protestors are expressing their ideas. To address the 99% or 1% percent argument requires more analysis. Although the protestors are arguing that they stand with 99% of Americans it is really not true. Much less support exists in reality and although 1% of the American population may control 40% of the money in the country, not all of the 99% want to protest and occupy Wall Street.

    The 1% that controls the money in this country is not a collective group. These individuals are not even defined and there is also gray area as money fluctuates every day. Locke would argue differently and demand more say in how the money is transferred throughout the country. He would encourage the people at occupy Wall Street to continue to grow and gain more power. However, the financial system in this country prevents them from doing so until they get real representation. Some may say these people are liberals and have representation through the democratic party but in realty they are all not liberals. They are simply people who are arguing against the current system and the President himself is a liberal democrat; these people simply want change but do not represent 99% of the population or all liberals.

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