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Original Research

Discerning urban spiritualities: Tahrir Square, Occupy Wall Street and the idols of global market capitalism

Calvyn C. du Toit

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 36, No 1 (2015), 5 pages. doi: 10.4102/ve.v36i1.1355

Submitted: 06 May 2014
Published:  15 April 2015


Discernment might be said to be a process of searching for meaning in the light of an (un) articulated Absolute. This search takes place in the tension between the private and public spheres of life, mostly mitigated by a community. Intermediate communities, such as churches or social movements, construct symbolic spirituality systems for its adherers to search for meaning in the light of an (un)articulated Absolute. The urban events of Occupy Wall Street and Tahrir Square also step into the tension between the public and private spheres of life, creating a (temporary) symbolic spirituality system for its adherers. These events were attempts to construct alternatives to the meta-narrative of global market capitalism. As events attempting to symbolise an urban spirituality, Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street dissipated rapidly, effecting rather little change at the heart of global market capitalism. This article theorises a possible reason for these urban spiritualities’ dissipation, namely an overlap with global market capitalism’s idols of instant gratification and technology.

Interdisciplinary Implications: Viewing Occupy Walls Street and Tahrir Square as symbolic systems of spirituality further strengthens theological urban discourse whilst adding weight to viewing mass movements as spiritualities attempting discernment.

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Author affiliations

Calvyn C. du Toit, Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Spirituality; Public Spirituality; Urban Discourses; Discernment


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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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