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20 Compelling Open Lectures on Occupy

by Staff Writers

While the Occupy Wall Street movement may not have the force or media coverage that it did just a few months ago, it’s still a major issue in American society, especially as we approach elections this November. Whether you’re a college student, teacher, or a professional, it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit more about what drives the movement and the issues those who support it see as being major problems in American society. You may be surprised how many of the issues central to OWS touch your life and your finances, or learn things you didn’t know about the people, protests, and motives of OWS.

One way to learn more is by watching or listening to a few (or all) of these great lectures on the OWS movement. Some were given at OWS events and others take a look at the larger issues surrounding the discontent, but all will help you better understand the reasons so many people young and old are passionate about supporting this protest movement.

  1. Slavoj Zizek

    Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek gives his take on the Occupy movement in this short interview through the European Graduate School. He also touches on topics like the Arab revolution, the role of philosophers in global change, and the future of capitalism.

  2. Robert Reich

    Just because you couldn’t make it out to some of the biggest Occupy protests doesn’t mean you can’t take in the many amazing lectures given at them. Here, UC-Berkeley professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich delivers the annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture on the steps of Sproul Hall, discussing a number of the touchstone issues for the OWS movement.

  3. Ryan Parsons

    In this video, you’ll see philosophy professor Ryan Parsons address a crowd of OWS protestors, integrating classical philosophical thought with the aims of this modern movement. The lecture is an example of philosophy in action; however, as you’ll see some of the points Parsons talks about coming to life as police force the lecture to move elsewhere.

  4. Michael Hardt and Rene Gabri

    Political philosopher Michael Hardt and artist Rene Gabri relate the struggles of the OWS movement to other political battles that shook the world during 2011 in this lecture from Venice International University, showcasing the ways in which these sometimes revolutionary movements are similar but paying close attention to the many discontinuities that lie between them.

  5. Noam Chomsky

    Noam Chomsky is one of the best-known names in American academia, so this lecture from the esteemed professor is a treat for those who’d like to hear his reaction to the OWS movement. Broken up into three videos, the lecture was part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series which was delivered in 2011 at Occupy Boston. The 82-year-old addresses some of the main concerns of the OWS movement and offers his own solutions to helping reduce the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S.

  1. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

    Check out this discussion’s video to learn more about the deeper ethical and political issues surrounding OWS protests. Expert panelists explore how rising income equality may be undermining some of the fundamental principles of American democracy.

  2. Institute of Politics

    This discussion should give you a pretty unique perspective on the Occupy movement. It features mayors from around the country who talk about, among other issues, the way they’ve each chosen to deal with the OWS movements and the effect it has had on their cities.

  3. Robert Korstad

    As part of a series of talks at Duke University called Office Hours, history and public policy professor Robert Korstad answers questions about how the OWS movement compares to previous large-scale political and social movements. Viewers will also get to hear from a Duke student participating in the Occupy Duke movement.

  4. Brian Lehrer

    Host of the WNYC The Brian Lehrer Show, Brian Lehrer, hosts this fascinating look into the role of images and design in the OWS movement, as graphic designers take to the street. Lehrer also takes a look at OWS in this talk addressing the role of hackers in OWS, something most people don’t know much about.

  5. OWS: The Next Human Rights Movement?

    Want to better understand OWS from a human rights perspective? Check out this discussion that brings together protesters and Columbia University professors to address questions like, "What right do people have to claim against social and economic inequality?" and "Who can be held accountable for these injustices?" These questions, and others, are no doubt the same as those that many outside of the movement have, making this an incredibly interesting examination of OWS for anyone to watch.

  1. OWS: First Amendment Rights

    In this recording, you’ll hear from a roundtable of Columbia professors from the economics, business, human rights, and political science departments. These experts will discuss the OWS movement with regard to First Amendment rights and the politics of free speech, helping viewers better understand why so many find the silencing of these protestors to be such a big deal.

  2. Joe Ramsey and Victor Wallis

    Liberal arts professor Victor Wallis and educator Joe Ramsey take part in a lively discussion of the OWS movement on the TV show African Ascent. They explore some of the driving forces behind the movement and the factors that helped lead up to so much discontent in middle and lower class workers in the United States. Victor Wallis also spoke directly to the OWS protesters, a video which you can watch here.

  3. Michael Denning

    Michael Denning is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American Studies at Yale University, and the Director of the Initiative on Labor and Culture, as well as the author of several books on sociopolitical topics. That makes him a great choice to deliver a lecture to a crowd of OWS supporters. In this public lecture, he discusses the culture of debt in American society and how it helps the rich grow richer and makes it harder for the poor to get ahead.

  4. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

    If you want to see the OWS movement from a wide range of perspectives, consider watching this talk from radical feminist and long-time activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Her take on things might be a bit extreme for many, but it’s worth hearing about nonetheless. She has said about the movement, "The protestors may not make the connection consciously, but their passionate actions are for the liberation from the market that now enslaves the 99 percent of the world peoples," and her talk here touches on that topic as well.

  5. Rick Wolff

    University of Massachusetts at Amherst emeritus economics professor Rick Wolff may be retired from UMass, but he’s still a busy man, teaching, hosting a radio program, writing for several major publications, and giving lectures like these. In his talk at Occupy Boston, Wolff focuses on the economic crisis and the inherent problems of capitalism as a system, relating these issues to OWS and the inspiration it is giving to many who feel disenfranchised across the country.

  1. Vijay Prashad

    Well-known academic Vijay Prashad is a self-described Marxist, so it’s not much of a surprise that he would want to get out and support the OWS movement. Here you’ll find his lecture, where he paints a bleak picture of the future of the 99% but also calls on protestors to focus not on the wealthy as an enemy but as the systems themselves that create such inequality. The lecture was so good he gave it twice, but you can watch it as many times as you want on YouTube.

  2. Fred Magdoff

    In his talk to OWS protesters, professor emeritus Fred Magdoff takes a different view from many of the previous lecturers, relating the economic and political struggles central to the OWS movement to issues of environmentalism. Magdoff asserts through his lecture that these issues are really all part of the same struggle, and that progressive thinkers need to unite if they’re to gain success in making big changes.

  3. Noel Ignatiev

    Political activist, history professor, and author of How the Irish Became White Noel Ignatiev focuses much of his research on issues of race in the United States. Unsurprisingly, he brings this topic up in his discussion of the Occupy movement, relating some of the serious issues in the U.S. with race relations and equality to larger economic and social pressures on the lower class.

  4. Elaine Bernard

    Over the past year, American unions have seen a strong movement towards limiting their power and effectiveness in both the public and private sectors. In this lecture, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, Elaine Bernard explores these attacks on public sector workers, especially teachers, who have been hit hard by criticism and cutbacks around the nation.

  5. Paul Le Blanc

    Check out this video to see what history professor Paul Le Blanc has to offer to the OWS discussion. In his short talk, Le Blanc, an expert on labor and social movements, rallies the supporters of the Occupy movement, relating their struggle to other labor movements throughout history and celebrating the work of Howard Zinn, the professor who sparked the lecture series that last year produced numerous great lectures on OWS.