The people at Occupy Wall Street were the return of the Levellers and Diggers, lifted straight out of the 17th century—albeit with the explicit religion of those old Christian movements shed along the way. (Except for a pair of elderly peace activists trying to start a prayer circle, everyone I interviewed described Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, as a major source of the evil they had set out to oppose.) (…)
The enthusiasm, spontaneity, and creativity” of a “cascading social movement,” he notes, can run “far ahead of the organizations wishing to represent, coordinate, and channel it.” And, in an interesting and probably accurate reinterpretation of received history, he dismisses the mainstream organizations that emerged out of the civil-rights struggle in the 1960s as merely the groups with the best public-relations teams—the ones that successfully sold themselves as leaders to a media desperate for an intelligible, hierarchical account with which to understand what was going on.
The real civil rights movement, Scott argues, was much wilder, much woollier, and much wackier. Much more like what anarchists want. (…)
Perhaps it’s worth noticing that the most interesting proposals for Christian Anarchism, from Simone Weil to Wendell Berry, are usually rural, usually agrarian—while the canonical writings of Anarchism, from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to Emma Goldman, are essentially urban. The Occupy movement occurred entirely in cities, of course, and so it seems natural that its theorists have turned to those urban texts.