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Occupy the Future

Occupy the Future

David B. Grusky
Doug McAdam
Rob Reich
Debra Satz
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Occupy the Future
    Book Description:

    The Occupy Wall Street movement has ignited new questions about the relationship between democracy and equality in the United States. Are we also entering a moment in history in which the disjuncture between our principles and our institutions is cast into especially sharp relief? Do new developments--most notably the rise of extreme inequality--offer new threats to the realization of our most cherished principles? Can we build an open, democratic, and successful movement to realize our ideals? Occupy the Future offers informed and opinionated essays that address these questions. The writers--including Nobel Laureate in Economics Kenneth Arrow and bestselling authors Paul and Anne Ehrlich--lay out what our country's principles are, whether we're living up to them, and what can be done to bring our institutions into better alignment with them.Contributers: David Grusky, Doug McAdam, Rob Reich, Erin Cumberworth, Debra Satz, Kenneth J. Arrow, Kim A. Weeden, Sean F. Reardon, Prudence L. Carter, Shelley J. Correll, Gary Segura, David D. Laitin, Cristobal Young, Charles Varner, Doug McAdam, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, Donald A. Barr, Michele Elam, Jennifer DeVere Brody, H. Samy Alim and David Palumbo-Liu.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30607-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. I Introduction

    • Occupy the Future
      (pp. 3-10)
      David B. Grusky, Doug McAdam, Rob Reich and Debra Satz

      In late September of 2011, the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park began attracting national and international media attention. By late October, without any evident coordination, Occupy protests began appearing in scores of other cities and in many other countries. What looked at first like a burst of outrage at Wall Street and the irresponsibility of global financial institutions became a more general and sustained protest against historic levels of inequality and, in particular, the rising share of national income controlled by a tiny sliver, the so-called 1 percent. “We are the 99 percent” became the slogan of the...

  4. II The Empirical and Normative Foundation

    • Economic Inequality in the United States: An Occupy-Inspired Primer
      (pp. 13-46)
      David B. Grusky and Erin Cumberworth

      The idea that inequality is a major social problem in the United States was once a niche belief limited to hard-core leftists, socialists, and Marxists. Why, they asked, is the American public so tolerant of the extreme inequality in its midst? When would middle-class voters come to their senses and stop backing the political party that was generating so much inequality?

      But that was then. We now live in a world in which mainstream journalists and the informed public are also openly worried about inequality. This newfound public concern about inequality has precipitated much journalism and commentary about the state...

    • Ethics and Inequality
      (pp. 47-58)
      Rob Reich and Debra Satz

      Consider some facts: the 400 wealthiest Americans have more money than the bottom 50 percent of all Americans combined. Between 1979 and 2007, the incomes of the top one percent of the population grew by 275 percent while the incomes of the middle class rose less than 40 percent. According to newly released 2011 measures, a staggering one in three Americans, or 100 million people, suffer in poverty or near poverty.¹

      These are startling facts, and the Occupy Movement, with its references to the “1%” and the “99%,” has successfully brought such inequalities to the fore of public consciousness. In...

  5. III The Sources of the Takeoff

    • Increasing Income Inequality: Economics and Institutional Ethics
      (pp. 61-70)
      Kenneth J. Arrow

      The specific problems of the current United States economy, the drastic increase in unemployment and sluggish increase in output, overlay a tendency of much longer duration, a drastic and rapid increase in the inequality of income. Every economy of any complexity has an unequal distribution of the good things in life. But the period immediately following World War II showed a considerably increased equality of income compared with either the Great Depression or the previous period of relatively normal economic activity.

      Since the middle 1980s, this tendency has been reversed. In the United States, the median family income has remained...

    • Why Is There So Much Poverty?
      (pp. 71-86)
      David B. Grusky and Kim A. Weeden

      The United States, one of the richest countries in the world, has a problem with poverty. There’s just too much of it.

      The latest statistics show that 49 million Americans are in poverty and another 90 million are in “near-poverty” (i.e., have incomes less than twice the poverty line).¹ These two groups, which together account for 48 percent of all Americans, would form a country with a population ranked the tenth largest in the world. Although many Americans assume that poverty is mainly found elsewhere, in fact the poverty in some parts of the United States is as dire and...

  6. IV Who Bears the Brunt of the Takeoff?

    • Education and Inequality
      (pp. 89-98)
      Sean F. Reardon

      Education has long been the primary pathway to social mobility in the United States. The American Dream—the idea that one’s family origin is no barrier to economic success—is plausible to the extent that we believe that our schools provide all students with equal opportunity to develop skills that will enable them to succeed in our complex society. Without such opportunity, hope for social mobility dims.

      So when we ask whether America is becoming more or less equal, we should ask not only whether income and political power are becoming more unequally distributed,¹ but also whether social mobility is...

    • The Double Binds of Economic and Racial Inequality
      (pp. 99-110)
      Prudence L. Carter

      In principle, the United States became an “open society” in the mid-twentieth century upon legally acknowledging the human and civil rights of all of its citizens, including African, Asian, Latino, Native, and other non-white Americans. In the wake of democratic transformation and the expansion of the opportunity to peoples of color of all socioeconomic statuses, a new debate emerged. Scholars and policy makers began to ask if there were a declining significance in race. The burgeoning rise of the African American middle class since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and the implementation of various affirmative action practices created...

    • Gender and Economic Inequality
      (pp. 111-122)
      Shelley J. Correll

      Among the top one percent of wage-earning Americans, women comprise a mere 12 percent.¹ On the 2011 Forbes list of the 100 richest people in America, only eight are women.² The Occupy movement has successfully drawn public attention to gross levels of economic inequality, and the policies that have created these inequalities, but has given less attention to inequalities within the top one percent—including a near-total dearth of women. Perhaps we see the lack of wealthy women as normal, natural, or even inevitable. Yet the allocation of economic resources in a society is anything but inevitable. Laws, public policies,...

  7. V Inequality, Politics, and Democracy

    • Restarting History
      (pp. 125-136)
      Gary Segura

      The collapse of the Soviet bloc in the late 1980s was, at the time, said to represent the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy and market capitalism as a social and economic system.¹ The free and open marketplace was the model for economic life as well as political life, and whatever defects or excesses in the model arose would be self-correcting. Marxist theorists and their misguided followers seriously underestimated the ability of capitalism (when married to democratic political structures) to reform itself, to impose enforceable checks on its worst excesses. As Francis Fukuyama (1989) solemnly declared, “The triumph of the West,...

    • Political Remedies to Economic Inequality
      (pp. 137-154)
      David D. Laitin

      The Occupy movement has drummed into our national consciousness the fact that our political process is delivering policies that mainly serve the interests of the top one percent of Americans. Evidence presented throughout this volume on the level of economic inequality that is barely remedied by current redistributive policies lends support to the fundamental claim of the movement. This raises a simple question: If democracy is a system designed to permit equal voice to everyone—indeed this is what we mean by political equality—why are we consistently ending up with policies that serve mainly the interests of the very...

    • State Millionaire Taxes
      (pp. 155-168)
      Cristobal Young and Charles Varner

      The Occupy movement has focused public attention on inequality in a way not seen in many years. National politics are stalled in seeming policy paralysis, but there is growing momentum for millionaire taxes at the state level. Since 2004, eight states have adopted a millionaire tax. The Occupy movement, with its nationwide grassroots presence, could push this policy to every state in the country. Modest change, modeled on current tax policy in New Jersey, would call for an extra 3 percent tax on the top 1 percent of earners. Legislatures can tailor tax brackets to the “Top One Percent” as...

    • The Politics of Occupy: Now and Looking Ahead
      (pp. 169-180)
      Doug McAdam

      The Occupy protests have brought welcome attention to various forms of inequality that characterize the contemporary United States. I too am deeply concerned by the extent and myriad forms of inequality that we see around us, but as a political analyst, I am just as worried by

      the politics that have enabled these glaring inequities to develop over the past 30 years and which sustain them in the present;

      the deep political divisions—the greatest since the Civil War—that have hollowed out our political institutions and undermined prospects for bipartisan-ship at the very moment we need it most desperately;...

  8. VI The Social Costs of Inequality

    • Capitalism Versus the Environment
      (pp. 183-194)
      Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich

      As far as we know, our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in relatively egalitarian societies that had no chiefs or kings, only leaders of the moment for war parties, dispute settlements, hunting expeditions, and so on. The capitalist economic system so dominant today traces back to the agricultural revolution, when families first became sedentary, were able to produce more food than they consumed, and thus get income by trading and thereby accumulate wealth. That crucial change laid the groundwork for a division of labor that led to priests, soldiers, politicians, commissars, rulers, shopkeepers, and eventually to modern capitalism with its entrepreneurs, Wall...

    • The Rising Toll of Inequality on Health Care and Health Status
      (pp. 195-206)
      Donald A. Barr

      While the top one percent of earners in the U. S. were doubling their share of total income in the past decade, middle- and lower-income families were getting hit twice: in the face of falling household incomes, millions were also losing their access to affordable health insurance. Rapidly rising healthcare costs coupled with expanding job losses have left millions of American families exposed to potential economic crisis when faced with illness or injury. The number one cause for bankruptcy in the US is an unexpected health crisis. The following statistics tell the story. Between 2001 and 2011, the average cost...

  9. VII Inequality and Culture

    • Occupy Your Imagination
      (pp. 209-220)
      Michele Elam and Jennifer DeVere Brody

      From the street posters and performance art, to pop-up galleries, giant light shows, poetry readings and micro-plays, the expressive arts are a fundamental component of the Occupy movement.²

      The movement’s new wave of organic creative expression revives the idea of art as necessity for an engaged citizenry. This is not self-referential art for art’s sake—art that pleases only the artist. Rather, this is timely art—art of and for the times—that is self-consciously responsive to immediate social concerns. Occupy has re-established art as a unique vehicle for social analysis and collective action that is as important to understanding...

    • What if We Occupied Language?
      (pp. 221-232)
      H. Samy Alim

      In the last year alone, the Occupy movement has transformed public spaces and institutions around the world, from the shutting down of ports in Oakland, California to the nearly year-long occupation of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in China (‘Occupy Central’). But the Occupy movement not only transformed public space, it transformed the public discourse as well.


      For over a year, it has been nearly impossible to hear the word and not think of the Occupy movement. In fact, linguists notedoccupy’s influence in January 2012 when the American Dialect Society overwhelmingly voted for it as...

    • Thinking Big
      (pp. 233-244)
      David Palumbo-Liu

      Many of our society’s deepest inequalities are presented in a series of separate and impersonal statistics. There are statistics for differences by income in home ownership, and access to employment, health care, and education. But, behind these statistics are lives and values. Even budgets, as Gladstone once remarked, are not so much matters of arithmetic, but serve as records of a society’s values when we look beneath them.

      InSavage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, written in 1991, Jonathan Kozol attempts to bridge the distance between statistics and lives and values:¹

      In Boston, the press referred to areas like these...

    (pp. 245-254)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 255-281)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 282-283)