This Could Be the Start of Something Big

This Could Be the Start of Something Big: How Social Movements for Regional Equity Are Reshaping Metropolitan America

Manuel Pastor
Chris Benner
Martha Matsuoka
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    This Could Be the Start of Something Big
    Book Description:

    For nearly two decades, progressives have been dismayed by the steady rise of the right in U.S. politics. Often lost in the gloom and doom about American politics is a striking and sometimes underanalyzed phenomenon: the resurgence of progressive politics and movements at a local level. Across the country, urban coalitions, including labor, faith groups, and community-based organizations, have come together to support living wage laws and fight for transit policies that can move the needle on issues of working poverty. Just as striking as the rise of this progressive resurgence has been its reception among unlikely allies. In places as diverse as Chicago, Atlanta, and San Jose, the usual business resistance to pro-equity policies has changed, particularly when it comes to issues like affordable housing and more efficient transportation systems. To see this change and its possibilities requires that we recognize a new thread running through many local efforts: a perspective and politics that emphasizes "regional equity."

    Manuel Pastor Jr., Chris Benner, and Martha Matsuoka offer their analysis with an eye toward evaluating what has and has not worked in various campaigns to achieve regional equity. The authors show how momentum is building as new policies addressing regional infrastructure, housing, and workforce development bring together business and community groups who share a common desire to see their city and region succeed. Drawing on a wealth of case studies as well as their own experience in the field, Pastor, Benner, and Matsuoka point out the promise and pitfalls of this new approach, concluding that what they term social movement regionalism might offer an important contribution to the revitalization of progressive politics in America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5912-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Manuel Pastor, Chris Benner and Martha Matsuoka
  4. CHAPTER ONE Something’s Happening Here
    (pp. 1-21)

    For nearly two decades, progressives have been dismayed by the steady rise of the right in U.S. politics and political discourse. Seeking to respond, some analysts have focused on the need to re-frame progressive ideas, arguing that staying on message, but with new words and new ideas, could return the country to a fabled liberal past. Others have focused on the need to infuse progressive politics with values, including those more rooted in the faith-based traditions so often rejected by an agnostic left. Still others have stressed the importance of designing policy remedies that can reconcile the demands of a...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Unpacking Regional Equity
    (pp. 22-58)

    In November 2002, PolicyLink, a national intermediary focused on issues of community development and community building, worked with a group of funders and other organizations to develop and host a “National Summit” on “Promoting Regional Equity.” Held in Los Angeles, a place traditionally viewed as anathema to regional collaboration or coordination, the organizers quietly prayed that at least 300 people would gather to discuss the ideas regarding regional organizing and policy which had been bubbling up around the country. The low expectations were reasonable: many of the people and organizations PolicyLink sought to include in the big tent of regional...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Landscape of Social Movement Regionalism
    (pp. 59-106)

    The launching point of the civil rights movement is often portrayed as the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955–56. The popular version recounts how an unassuming black seamstress named Rosa Parks, exhausted after a long day of work, refused to give up her seat in the front of the bus to a white man. Her simple act of defiance then inspired others to rally to the cause—a spark that ignited two decades of social movement protest that transformed American society.

    The full story is much more complicated. Parks’s “spontaneous” act in December 1955 was rooted in her personal history...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Coming Back Together in Los Angeles
    (pp. 107-143)

    In 1989, UCLA regional scholar Ed Soja published his influential Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. This breakthrough book emphasized the evolution of polycentric Los Angeles, and by doing so, it helped break through the traditional paradigm of the so-called Chicago school—the metropolitan configuration in which a central city surrounded by its suburbs was considered the archetype for all of urban America. And among the text’s singular achievements was one of the boldest—perhaps most brazen—chapter titles in the urban studies literature: “It All Comes Together in Los Angeles.”

    It was a brave pronouncement,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Making Regional Equity Work
    (pp. 144-187)

    From Los Angeles to Detroit, from Milwaukee to Chicago, community developers, organizers, and movement builders have come together to forge new regional understandings, new regional coalitions, and new regional policy experiments. But as impressive as any single case might be, some questions remain: Can these diverse and often specific organizing efforts overcome the challenges of localism and parochialism? Can they share a common vision? And can they connect strongly enough to have a major impact on equity and economic opportunity across the country?

    We believe they can—yet this is by no means an inevitable future. Regional equity organizing could...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Moving on Up
    (pp. 188-218)

    In early 2007, two of us were asked to attend an invitation-only conference in Los Angeles. The mention of select invitations may raise the image of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland—but instead of hobnobbing with the heights of the business community, we were rubbing elbows with some stars of the community-organizing world.

    From New York, Washington, Boston, and Miami, as well as from Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and the host city of L.A., grassroots activists who were worried about gentrification came together to talk about common concerns and strategies. One might have expected a rehash of policies and...

  10. References
    (pp. 219-240)
  11. Index
    (pp. 241-256)