The Occupy Movement in Žižek’s hometown: Direct democracy and a politics of becoming

by Maple Razsa and Andrej Kurnik

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By Maple Razsa and Andrej Kurnik In an otherwise sympathetic speech to Occupy Wall Street, Slavoj Žižek dismissed protesters’ pursuit of direct democracy as a “dream.” In no small part responding to a perceived crisis of representative politics, however, the popular movements that swept through northern Africa, Europe, and North America during 2011 have been distinguished by their adoption of direct democratic forms. This initial ethnography—collaboratively researched and written by a Slovene activist–theorist and a U.S. anthropologist—considers the significance of the Occupy Movement's democratic practices in Žižek's own hometown. We trace the development of decidedly minoritarian forms of decision making—the “democracy of direct action,” as it is known locally—to activists’ experiences of organizing for migrant and minority rights in the face of ethnonationalism. We compare the democracy of direct action to Occupy Wall Street's consensus-based model. In conclusion, we ask how ethnographic attention to the varieties of emergent political forms within the current global cycle of protest might extend recent theorizing of radical politics and contribute to broader efforts to reimagine democracy.

Evening assembly, Occupy Slovenia, 2011. Photo by 15o.
Evening assembly, Occupy Slovenia, 2011. Photo by 15o.