The Occupy Movement and the Politics of Vulnerability

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The Occupy movement has generated a significant amount of scholarly literature, most of which has focused on the movement's tactics or goals, or sought to explain its emergence. Nevertheless, we lack an explanation for the movement's broad appeal and mass support. In this article we present original research on Occupy in New York City, Detroit, and Berlin, which demonstrates that the movement's heterogeneous participants coalesced around the concept of vulnerability. Vulnerability is an inability to adapt to shocks and stresses, and it inhibits social reproduction and prohibits social mobility. Rather than specifically discussing the wealth of elites per se, Occupy participants consistently expressed the feeling that the current political economic system safeguards elites and increases the vulnerability of everyone else. We argue that the Occupy movement has reworked the relationship among a range of political struggles that were hitherto disconnected (i.e. ‘old’ and ‘new’ social movements) and rendered them complementary through the politics of vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-791
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Occupy movement
  • social movements
  • vulnerability
  • critical theory


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