A decade after the Occupy Wall Street protesters called out the reckless greed that brought down the economy, a different kind of anti-Wall Street, populist uprising is happening online—on comment threads and in trading apps—and these protesters are dumping equal parts money and defiance into their cause. The GameStop revolution also speaks to general frustration with the state of work in America.
Our country, we tell ourselves, is a place where anyone can make it if they study enough, and where the smartest rise to the top. Grow up in a sad town with only empty lots where factories used to be? Hit the books, spend your days in the library memorizing dates, equations, and working out that brain.
In our populist moment, the categories of left and right are losing their currency. Underlying recent events—the Capitol riot of Jan 6 (a populist political uprising) and the GameStop saga (“the first populist uprising in finance”)—is the belief that the system is rotten. It’s a belief shared by populists on both sides, even as party labels are becoming less meaningful for many working people who see reality as primarily shaped by the interests of a powerful, wealthy, global elite vs. the needs of ordinary people.