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The Democratic Ethos: Authenticity and Instrumentalism in US Movement Rhetoric After Occupy, A. Freya Thimsen

Reviewed by Callum Ingram
 

In light of the recent turns toward organizing and prefiguration in political theory, this is a particularly fruitful moment to reconsider the Occupy movement; indeed, these recent turns may be a form of collective reckoning with Occupy. After all, it was the same seemingly unorganized, Bartleby-adjacent “no” of Occupy that granted it both its distinct promise and haunting threat of futility. And it was Occupy's desire to model justice on the level of the encampment that made it both a global inspiration and a challenge to scale up. The Occupy movement had to get the goods, but we still seem unsure of what the goods were and how they might get gotten.

A. Freya Thimsen's book enriches our understanding of both what Occupy was and what it accomplished. Responding to premature dismissals of Occupy by many “left-leaning progressive and liberal intellectuals,” Thimsen argues we can now take advantage of a “longer view” in order to appreciate how “the democratic ethos consolidated and disseminated by the Occupy demonstrations” reshaped subsequent movements (1–2). Occupy's accomplishments ought not just be measured in terms of policy changes but also in how subsequent democratic movements must “walk the walk” by demonstrating a performative consistency between their stated goals and

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