Social inequality is a key recurring theme animating various protest movements over the past decade. Take, for example, the Occupy Wall Street movement conceived by many as a new global movement phenomenon. Others, however, maintain that these demonstrations displayed characteristics typical of “old” social movements. We argue that in order to understand differences between old and new movements, it is necessary to compare Occupy protests with other contemporaneous anti-austerity protests, as demonstrators in both protested against stark inequality following the financial meltdown. To do so, we rely on the Caught in the Act of Protest data where data were collected at actual demonstrations at Occupy protests and anti-austerity protests between 2009 and 2012. We examine sociodemographics (the who of protest), motivational dynamics (the why of protest), and mobilization dynamics (the how of protest). We find that the two types of demonstrations brought different crowds into the streets. Occupy protesters were younger, higher educated, and much less involved in formal organizations compared to anti-austerity demonstrators. Moreover, Occupiers were more dissatisfied with democracy. Finally, we discuss these findings against contemporary anti-inequality mobilization. We argue that political entrepreneurs on the (populist) left and/or the right will politicize current inequality-related grievances and mobilize people in the streets and/or at the voting booth.
van Stekelenburg, J. and Gaidytė, T. (2021), "Occupying Against Inequality", Pettinicchio, D. (Ed.) The Politics of Inequality (Research in Political Sociology, Vol. 28), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 177-194. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0895-993520210000028009
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