Policing Political Protest: Paradoxes of the Age of Austerity
"In this article, I assess the reactions of various police officials to the Occupy movement and to the underlying conditions of state fiscal austerity that themselves motivated a large proportion of Occupy protesters. I also analyze the framework several commentators used to discuss the relationship of the police to the '1%' and thus to the movement; I characterize this relationship as “instrumentalist” to indicate that the police were seen to be working at the behest of the ultra-rich. More explicitly, the framework assumes that the capitalist class, perceiving the first large-scale radical and anticapitalist movement in some time as a threat to their rule, deployed the vehicle of state power to crush the movement. In contrast, I argue that the period of increasing austerity makes plausible the instrumentalist conception of the relationship of capitalist class power and police power, particularly in the context of political protest. I suggest that the appearance of instrumentalism is better understood as an effect of the structure of state power in the present moment of austerity, which offers some hope for Occupy’s vision. Yet because it is nonetheless true that the state did crush the movement, I use this foundation to pose provocations—these emerge from questions I think are not asked by the movement’s own understanding of the conjuncture—about what the movement revealed about the emergent political and economic situation and the post-Occupy future."
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