Monthly Archives: October 2011

Parallels between OWS and Chartism

There is a contemporary parallel to the Chartist movement in nineteenth century England.  That parallel is the Occupy Wall Street movement, and although the specific goals are different, at their hearts, these two movements are linked despite the intervening 173 years.  These movements are both about representative government and the demand to see fair and equal representation.  In the case of Chartism, the protestors argued that suffrage be expanded to include voting rights in the middle and lower classes (although at this time women were still excluded), while Occupy Wall Street seeks, in one sense, to remove corporate control over legislative bodies.  Both of these goals stem from a great economic inequality.  In early 19th century Britain, as clearly represented in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton, “the most deplorable… evil that arose out of the period… was this feeling of alienation between the different classes” (127).  That same feeling appears again today with the Great Recession and the beginnings of the Occupy movement.  The parallels between the two movements, and the media coverage thereof, extend beyond the reach of this essay, but should be readily apparent by the conclusion. Continue reading