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It’s worth a long night’s conversation over your beverage of choice to explore the history of how becoming institutionalized affected the course of the civil rights and women’s movements, among others. Was the radical spirit of each distracted or stifled? Each of those movements came out of the gate with a powerful set of demands. Yet, once organizational dynamics took hold and divisions were confirmed by structure (think SCLC vis-a-vis SNCC, or NOW vis-a-vis NARAL) the chance of maintaining one strong voice committed to radical change diminished. 

Radicals became captive to a mindset dominated by the imperatives of competitive fundraising and institutions, rather than movement building. There were paydays to be met, auditors to be satisfied, board members and donors to be placated. To be clear, there is a stage when that evolution is inevitable in order to make the shift from fostering outrage to changing policy. At their best, strong, transparent and accountable formal organizations are essential building blocks for social change. But is this the appropriate role for Occupy? My eloquent colleague Alexa Bradley wrote:

 The beauty of Occupy is that it is popular, wild, free. I don’t mean that in a romantic sense, although there is that appeal too and it is part of its magnetism in an all-too-cynical time. I mean it in a political and social sense — it exists outside the non-profit framework that is all too captive to a set of assumptions, norms, limits and needs. The resonance globally of Occupy is its clear roots in popular sentiment and movement, not a professionalized advocacy staff or agenda. Its power rests in the fact that it is un-circumscribed and therefore perhaps infinite in its circumference. We are all part of its we if we agree.