With the Occupy movement, I've heard lots of passionate opinions from friends and media. Some people want to park them in the 'virulent anti capitalist' camp (no pun intended), and then lampoon the protestors in some sort of Monty Pythonesque manor, 'What has capitalism ever done for us?'. As if highlighting the progress of capitalism such as medicine and water supply means the protestors should go home.
I think people can protest the current 'social contract' around capitalism and market society, without assuming they want to wind the clock back a few hundred years and live without TV and mobile phones. Otherwise how do we have a conversation about the limits of markets, and the social relationships to those limits if we are immediately some sort of capitalist luddites for doing so?
And I think some of the accusations that these people should go home unless they can come up with real demands, or concrete proposals, i.e 'be grateful you don't live 200 years ago, get back to work and make things better, as you have nothing to offer' is less than helpful.
When and if all of life has collapsed into the market, when there is little 'space' to inhabit other than the market, what do people do? When we have borrowed money to fund a way of life that is not sustainable, and when bankers continue to profit and bonuses grow whilst the world economy is in such a mess, how do we respond?
One way to read these protests is not as political movements within current arrangements, and not as ungrateful consumers who should thank their forebears and get back to work. But people wondering why greed is good, and the markets are the ground of life, and they are captive to it themselves with their own shopping and leisured lifestyles?
Christians have the oikos-polis (the idea and practice of Church), a public and political space to worship and inhabit that attends to that, that has too often been co-opted into an extension of market provision. Maybe these protests are acts of intuitive worship, and protest about human nature, and the refusal to be all about the market, or all about the private, and in that sense are the deepest acts of worship that people are reaching for.
I had hoped my PhD supervisor Luke Bretherton would say something about the Occupy movement, on his blog and he has. It ended up on the Huffington Post titled, The Real Battle of St Paul Cathedral: The Occupy Movement and Millennial Politics.