SNP’s word of the day: Coup

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett
Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Coup

Meaning: a takeover; the usurping of ruling powers.

Usage: “I feel sure that coups d’état would go much better if there were seats, boxes, and stalls so that one could see what was happening and not miss anything” — Edmond and Jules de Goncourt

You should know it because: Occupy Wall Street has the people searching Wikipedia for “Marxism.” Tweets, blogs, and online forums dedicated to the protests are riddled with Marx quotes and references, although many of those protesting are probs champagne socialists—well, Pabst socialists—at best. On Saturday at the sit-in, which is now flooding lower Manhattan, Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek delivered a “wake-up call.” (Kanye West showed up yesterday, but we’re waiting for confirmation from his publicist on whether he’s a Marxist, or more of a Marxist-Leninist.) (No, not really. Come on.)

So anyway, according to Marx, the final stage of history is the coup: when the working classes overthrow capitalism. (According to Glenn Beck, meanwhile, it was when Obama got elected.) When I (briefly) studied this stuff, I failed to identify with the commie idealists in the second row, partly because I thought free markets better reflected human nature (I still do; it’s just my opinion of human nature has changed) and partly because they wore bad sweaters and couldn’t tell a joke to save the means of production. Plus, my profs semi-dismissed Marx’s theories on the reasonable basis that revolutions hadn’t happened as he predicted, that his dreams of widespread Western working-class revolts hadn’t come true, and that capitalism hadn’t collapsed. These days, who can be so sure?

A week ago, the #OWS protesters took the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s a coup, in the way we commonly use the word, meaning “an unexpected triumph.” Whether or not it leads to the bigger, political kind depends on whether protesters are serious about change or just too coup for school.