Monday, June 7, 2010

Squatting in Buffalo

Not much from me this morning as I have discovered the BEA Table CA06, which has details on compensation by industry, for every county in the country and I am busy figuring out how to digest all the data.  In the meantime, there is a fascinating article in the New York Times on squatters in abandoned houses in Buffalo, NY.  This is the kind of thing I expect gradually more and more of as we go forward - as industrial society continues to need a smaller and smaller fraction of the population in order to function, people will find various ways to survive on the fringe of it.

Also, this link comes courtesy of Ran Prieur, who seems to be a thought leader amongst career drop-outs.  His manifesto is here.


Datamunger said...

Stuart, I think you might be conflating two very different social phenomena. Freegans & dropouts are not the same folks as those who want to work but don't have the education & skills. The former want out (no easy task), the latter want in.

From the NYT article you reference, "The majority, however, seemed to be iconoclastic young people from middle-class backgrounds living some version of the freegan dream."

Stuart Staniford said...


I don't mean to suggest that potentially middle class kids dropping out is the entire phenomenon, or even the most important part, but I do think it's part of the syndrome. It is getting slowly harder to "make it", and that causes a range of responses from folks sincerely trying for a long time, and failing, and then finding some other way to get by, to folks that throw up their hands in disgust early in adulthood and look for some kind of alternative way to get by.

I have begun exploring the social science literature on non-working adults, so I expect I'll have more to say on this over time. At the moment, I have impressions mainly based on anecdotal data from people in my own circle of acquaintance who have decided that they can't/wont do the conventional house/job thing, and my sample might be pretty biassed. But still, it's my impression that "can't" and "won't" are on a spectrum, rather than being discrete categories.

Datamunger said...

I first heard of freegans in early 2005 when there wasn't a hint of recession in the air. There was no association with lack of employment and this article makes none either. Instead, as here, ideological was prominent.

Now there might be a sense in which the freegan "can't" hold a steady job, at least at that moment given his beliefs, attitudes, etc. But, as mentioned in the piece, some change their minds and move on to pursue careers.

On the other hand, an unemployed machinist in Detroit is welcome to completely revamp his ideological commitments, if he has any, He's still as fucked as ever. So instead of can't/won't perhaps we have too very different kinds of can't.

I agree however that poor employment might accelerate this dynamic (alt lifestyles).

On a personal note, I'm rooting for it. There is a fair amount of diffuse revulsion over the status quo. More of it needs to turn pro. Maybe it was the BP spill, heck, it's been building for a while..... but my centrism is toast. Bring on the kulturekampf. I do not want peace in my time.

Stuart Staniford said...


I might be with you if I read, or could figure out, a clearly better idea for how to run a planet of 9b, but I can't. "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time"

Stuart Staniford said...

I should say that although I didn't hear the term "freegan" until pretty recently, I was exposed to similar thinking in a less extreme form when I lived at N Street Cohousing in my twenties. We had a friend of the community who was an avid dumpster diver, and we salvaged and recycled a lot of materials.

I see also Yves Smith letting out her inner freegan here.

River Bolden said...

another trend gaining ground is "dumpster diving". A trend I believe started with the ""freegan" movement.

Basically, people just goto dumpster either private residence or commercial and look for whatever. People of all backgrounds seem to be doing this these days (so, I hear & have seen).

Dumpster diving is no longer for the subway junkie.