We Are the 99% – Shklar vs. Kemmis





In recent months, this country has seen a wave of protests under the umbrella of the “Occupy/We are the 99%” movement. The movement is centered on the idea that if one does not have a lot of money in this country, they have no voice. The use of the “99%” implies that the protesters represent and support the 99% of Americans who are not millionaires and billionaires. The fundamental question I think we need to answer here is, “Are these protests a worthy use of our expression against the problems facing us as a country?”

Let’s begin with the two scholarly viewpoints. Judith Shklar would, in my opinion, be against the “Occupy” movement. I believe the movement is based upon establishing more of a participatory democracy, hence the General Assembly format of the movement, where every city in the protest has the ability to vote on issues facing them. On pages 14-15 of her book, Shklar notes, in a classical liberal fashion, that we should invest in individual rights rather than the common good, and goes on on page 30 to scathe “The call for a classical participatory democracy may, therefore, be far from democratic, because it does not correspond to the aspirations of most Americans now and has never done so in the past.” The final nail in the coffin which I believe cements Shklar’s disapproval of the protests is her key belief that citizenship is standing, which is throughout her whole book, and that there must be some exclusion in American citizenship. While I am unsure if she would take the side of the 1%, she certainly would not be with the protesters. Kemmis, in contrast, would most certainly be a civic republican voice behind this movement.

In the text “Barn Raising,” Kemmis emphasizes in his tale about a community coming together to build a barn that it is important to provide for the general welfare of the citizenry rather than any one person. It is a “politics of cooperation,” Kemmis hypothesizes on page 125 of Citizenship in a Democracy, that allows us to be united by our shared values. Kemmis goes on, “The members are united through the fact that they fix on some object as preeminantly valuable.” It is, I believe, reasonable to conclude from this text that Kemmis would support the protesters because they unite through the cause of fixing societal problems and giving those who are in the lower classes access to a better lifestyle.

     Shklar and Kemmis, undoubtedly, are on two different sides of the spectrum in regards to the “Occupy” movement. Personally, I believe it is worthwhile to have a narrative going on in this country about the excesses of Wall Street, the lack of jobs, and what is a frightening prospect- our voices may be shut out of the decision making process because we happen to not have millions of dollars and access to lobbyists. As long as the protests remain civil and avoid violence, they already forced Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, to mention income inequality in his speech at the Michigan League this past Monday, and instead of deficits which was the topic of the Washington pundits for months, we are having a real conversation about the job crisis. But what do you think? Please vote in my poll and leave comments!

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4 Responses to We Are the 99% – Shklar vs. Kemmis

  1. bah2011 says:

    You are correct in believing that Shklar would not be in favor of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement. By her definition in order to have citizenship as standing you must earn. The OWS protestors believe that the 1% should redistribute their wealth to the 99%. If this redistribution were to happen then people would be dependent on the government or Wall Street. When you are dependent on someone else to provide for yourself, you lose your standing in the community.

  2. paranpi says:

    Although I do agree that in some ways Kemmis’ view of common good and community over individual would be more supportive of the Occupy the Wall Street Movement, I don’t think Shklar’s definition of citizenship necessarily puts her as unsupportive, or even against the movement. There are multiple motivatioins behind the OWS movement, and although you could say looking for total economic and social equality could be one, I don’t think that is what most people are asking for. The fundamental issue is that 1% has unfair advantage over the 99% that allows them to maintain their economic and social superiority, which in turn gives them more voice in the political arena. I think in a lot of ways OWS is advocating for fair and equal economic OPPORTUNITY, and the right to earn fair amount for all citizens. Shklar could see the current economic and political system to weaken a lot of citizen’s ability to earn, because while we can make money, compared to the 1%, 99% don’t feel as rewarded for the work they are doing, which could lead to disatified feelings towards citizenship. By advocating for a fair earning system, it would reinforce in many ways fair opportunities for citizens, which would allot them to have a rewarding and engaging experience in their earning.

  3. chrisjay44 says:

    I definitely think 99% have pointed out some major problems that we face in this country today. The problem is they have not presented any solutions. I would also agree with you that Shklar would not be in favor of the 99%. However, I do think she would be in favor of the 53%,

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