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Neighborhood Organization and Interest-Group Processes

Neighborhood Organization and Interest-Group Processes

Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 280
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    Neighborhood Organization and Interest-Group Processes
    Book Description:

    Since the end of the civil rights era in the sixties it has become increasingly clear that social and political conflicts cannot be resolved entirely at the national level. Struggles between residents of poor neighborhoods and local interest groups or public authorities present some of our most explosive domestic political problems today. This study seeks insight into these problems through an analysis of efforts during the sixties to organize the poor to pursue their interests in local decision-making processes.

    David J. O'Brien holds that both organizers and scholarly observers of the grass-roots movement have failed to understand properly the process by which interest groups are formed. Arguing that the demise of neighborhood organization cannot be attributed to supposedly unique social, psychological, or cultural characteristics of the poor, he develops an analytical framework that emphasizes the strategic role of incentives and organizational resource problems. This framework helps explain not only the failure of organizers in the sixties to grasp the problems of interest group formation, but also the assumptions that prevented them from identifying the source of their frustration. The author assesses the different approaches that have been taken to neighborhood organization, and outlines a model for future efforts.

    Originally published in 1979.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6874-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    Not too many years ago, the subject of neighborhood organization would have seemed to many of us, especially if we were of liberal political persuasion, to be extremely irrelevant in understanding important political processes in American society. Until the mid-1960s, it seemed that all of the political action was at the national level. The New Deal experience and the civil rights struggle seemed to indicate that major social issues would be resolved either by Congress, the federal courts, or the president. The only people who appeared to be deeply concerned with neighborhoods, or with local politics in general, were the...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Incentives and Individual Support for Collective Action
    (pp. 7-42)

    Here the problem of inducing the poor to support neighborhood organizations is analytically defined. Because the residents of a poor neighborhood have alatentor potential basis of common interest, the problem of persuading them to support collective efforts is analytically similar to the problem which faces other aggregates with latent common interests, such as workers or members of a profession. All of these aggregates must cope with the problem of devising a way to induce individuals to pay for the “costs” of collective action.¹ Even in unions, which are controlled by an oligarchy, workers must pay their dues and...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Resource Needs and Environmental Problems
    (pp. 43-63)

    We must now consider the organizational problems that a neighborhood organization can be expected to face when it tries to obtain the resources necessary to induce the support of the poor for collective efforts. The need of a neighborhood organization to gainfinancial resourcesandlegitimacyexerts pressure on the leaders of the organization to make adaptations to the sociopolitical environment in which the organization operates. In turn, the need for a neighborhood organization to adapt to its environmental surroundings, which are subject to constant change, can be expected to pose a number of organizational dilemmas for its leaders. Thus...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Community Development
    (pp. 64-92)

    Community development,¹ an approach toward neighborhood organization sometimes referred to as “locality development” (Rothman, 1970), concentrates on theprocessof community involvement in self-help tasks. These are supposed to create more positive self-identities among residents and strengthen their bonds of community. Ecklein and Lauffer describe this process in the following manner:

    . . . In community development, the organizer’s main target is always the consumer of his services: the resident, the member, the recipient. His goal is to overcome the individual’s or the group’s ignorance of the possibilities open to them. People are organized to facilitate education and communication, to...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Social Action-Protest Strategies
    (pp. 93-129)

    One of the most important features of Western democracies is the flexibility of their social and political institutions, which generates an enormous number of protest movements. In the United States the history of post-Revolutionary War protest goes back to the days of Shays’ Rebellion and has taken on a variety of forms, ranging from the violence of the Civil War Draft Riots to the Ghandian-style nonviolent resistance of the civil rights movement, and has been directed at a variety of objectives, including women’s sufferage, labor rights, civil rights, and peace. Thus, the 1960s are hardly unique in American history, although...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Community Action Programs
    (pp. 130-152)

    One of the basic assumptions of liberal American political scientists and sociologists— such as Burns (1967), Bell (1962), Lane (1966), and Lipset (I960)—is that if a disadvantaged aggregate of persons are unable to pursue their interests on their own, then the federal government will eventually come to their assistance. In fact, since the beginning of the New Deal, the federal government has served as anadvocatefor a number of disadvantaged parties. Through the Wagner Act, the government helped to organize mass-production workers (Olson, 1965; Galbraith, 1956). Through farm-bureau cooperatives (Olson, 1965) and price supports (Galbraith, 1956), the government...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Variations in Development in Local Community Action Programs
    (pp. 153-174)

    Unique to the War on Poverty as a social program was the emergence of two relatively distinct political issues, each of which generated a different set of “costs” and “benefits” for the various interest groups which had a stake in the program. Following much the same pattern as it had with other welfare issues, the liberal coalition of minority groups, reformers, and Democratic party organizations supported the funding of this program, while traditionally conservative groups such as the Republican party, business interests, and Southern Democrats opposed it. But, as we saw earlier, each of the parties to the coalition which...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Future of Neighborhood Organization
    (pp. 175-222)

    In view of the complexity and interdependence of the problems and principles of neighborhood organization, I believe this brief outline will be helpful to the reader.

    The basic unit of analysis is the rational self-interested person. The central task of the organizer is to find incentives to induce this individual to pay for nondivisible collective goods (that is, public goods).

    The size of an aggregate makes a qualitative difference in the way in which inducement problems are experienced. In the case of a small aggregate, support for collective goods can be accomplished through voluntary means; but in the case of...

  12. References
    (pp. 223-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-263)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)