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Occupy Wall Street: a humanist perspective


On my Facebook wall today I wrote: “If the only accomplishment of the Occupy movement is the end of corporate personhood, it will have been enough.”

As I thought about it more, I realized that this is a deeply humanist perspective.

In the same way that the work of speaking about God includes defining what is not God, so the work of speaking about humanity includes defining who––or, more accurately, what––is not a person.

Corporate personhood diminishes human personhood. The energy behind the Occupy movement is an inevitable uprising of the human spirit, too long held back, too long kept powerless, too long lied to and made cynical.

It is a movement of hope. It is a surge of desperate optimism. It is humanity re-emergent.

May we make it so.

(Photo by david_shankbone.  Used under a Creative Commons license.)


4 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street: a humanist perspective

  1. Corporations do exactly the opposite. They allow individuals to pool small chunks of capital, rather than depend on one individual with a big chunck of capital. They allow groups to protect themselves from risk of loss and failure. Corporations are a very collectivist sort of idea. Associations rather than individual Capitalists.

    • Hi, Bill. For me, the issue with corporations is scale. And as I type that, I think about Apple, and Steve Jobs, and reconsider.

      My sense is that many of our ideals have gotten shabby around the edges. Your description of corporations is the ideal, right? But the reality is less straightforward. Most individual stockholders participate in corporate decision-making about as much as most Americans participate in self-government. Earnings statements come in the mail, and gains and losses are all that matters–not the decision-making that led to those gains and losses. So power and $$ get concentrated in the hands of the few.

      Which reminds me of David Pyle’s blog post this week:

      I hear there’s a group forming called “Occupy K Street.”

  2. John Kenneth Gailbrath believed corporations would become so big they would become entrenched and self perpetuating. Size really did just the opposite and they become too unweildy. Galbraith recanted that thought which was quite popular among leftist economists when I was in college.

    I’m not a big one for too-big-to-fail and for the post part when corporations fail, like GM or Crysler, I’d let them fail, and let the bankruptcy laws work their way.

    As for voters and corp boards, the key vote investors make is with their dollars/investments. If the board and leadership fails, the investors take the dollars elsewhere. That’s a hugely effective vote.

    Otherwise, the take away point here though for me, is Corporations are very much in the spirit of John Luther Adams. Their legal structures that allow people to congregate and pool resources in a way they’d never be able to do as individuals.

  3. Pingback: Occupy Wall Street: a humanist perspective | Understanding the Occupy Movement |

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