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Cultural Politics

Cultural Politics

Marcy Darnovsky
Barbara Epstein
Richard Flacks
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Cultural Politics
    Book Description:

    Bridging the worlds of activism and academia-social movement theory informed with the real experiences of activists-this volume of accessible essays brings together insights from European New Social Movement theorists, U.S. scholars of social movements, and activists involved in social movements from the 1960s to the 1990s.

    Contributors: Alice Echols, Barbara Epstein, Richard A. Cloward, Marcy Darnovsky, Jeffrey Escoffier, Ilene Rose Feinman, Richard Flacks, Cynthia Hamilton, Allen Hunter, L. A. Kauffman, Rebecca E. Klatch, Margit Mayer, Alberto Melucci, Bronislaw Misztal, Osha Neumann, Frances Fox Piven, Craig Reinarman, Roland Roth, Arlene Stein, Mindy Spatt, Andrew Szasz, Noél Sturgeon, Howard Winant.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0454-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxiv)

    Like so much else about social movements, the meaning of the term is itself often hotly contested. For us, social movements are collective efforts by socially and politically subordinated people to challenge the conditions and assumptions of their lives. These efforts are a distinctive sort of social activity: collective action becomes a “movement” when participants refuse to accept the boundaries of established institutional rules and routinized roles. Single instances of such popular defiance don’t make a movement; the term refers to persistent, patterned, and widely distributed collective challenges to the status quo.

    While traditional definitions usually focus on movement challenges...

  4. I Activists and Academics

    • CHAPTER 1 “Political Correctness” and Collective Powerlessness
      (pp. 3-19)
      Barbara Epstein

      For nearly a year the U.S. media have been preoccupied with the question of “political correctness” and the threat that it supposedly poses to free speech and other accepted liberal values. The attack on “political correctness” has been directed at a number of intersecting targets within the universities: affirmative action; curricular concerns around multiculturalism, feminism, and gay rights; the intellectual/cultural arena of what is loosely called postmodernism or poststructuralism, located mainly in the humanities; and the field of cultural studies, in which concerns with race, gender, and sexuality intersect with interest in postmodernism and poststructuralism. It is remarkable how long...

    • CHAPTER 2 Community and Academic Intellectuals: The Contest for Cultural Authority in Identity Politics
      (pp. 20-34)
      Jeffrey Escoffier

      Tensions and differences between intellectuals based primarily in the community and intellectuals working within the university are a persistent feature in the cultural life of the lesbian and gay male communities. Similar tensions also haunt the activists and intellectuals of other movements and communities—for example, feminists, African Americans, Chicanos.

      The production of culture and the definition of identity is absolutely crucial to the formation and collective action of the new identity movements that have become an important feature of American political life.¹ It is a politics constituted by construction of shared knowledge and ethical norms, one that nurtures a...

    • CHAPTER 3 Theorizing Movements: Direct Action and Direct Theory
      (pp. 35-52)
      Noël Sturgeon

      The “nonviolent direct action movement” is my name for a combination of extra-institutional political practices and organizational structures that have been regularly used since the middle 1970s in opposition to nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, American intervention in Central America, and the war in the Persian Gulf.¹ The importance of these particular targets to the movement supports a general characterization of it as antimilitarist. Intermittently, however, these practices and organizational forms have been used for actions organized by gay and lesbian groups, by the homeless, by antiapartheid groups, and others. The identifying characteristics of this movement are the use of...

  5. II Cultural Politics after the Counterculture

    • CHAPTER 4 Motherfuckers Then and Now: My Sixties Problem
      (pp. 55-73)
      Osha Neumann

      In the sixties I was part of a group called the Motherfuckers, short for Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers. That’s my sixties problem in a nutshell.

      The Motherfuckers were a small group of hippie activists that operated on the Lower East side of New York between 1966 and 1969. The Lower East Side is a predominantly Puerto Rican ghetto. Before the Puerto Ricans there were Jews, who worked in the shirt- and cigar-manufacturing establishments on Cooper Union Square. I arrived in 1962, having dropped out of the graduate history department at Yale to become a painter. By the time of...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Counterculture, the New Left, and the New Right
      (pp. 74-89)
      Rebecca E. Klatch

      In the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in “the sixties.”¹ Although this new literature offers fresh insights into the organization, influences on, and effects of the social movements of that era, the majority of these analyses fail to understand two fundamental aspects of the 1960s. First, the focus of these commentaries—and the popular conception of the 1960s—associates the decade solely with the politics of the left, with the civil rights, antiwar, and women’s movements. Yet my previous research,² which focused on women in the New Right, found that many of today’s conservative activists...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Twelve-Step Movement and Advanced Capitalist Culture: The Politics of Self-Control in Postmodernity
      (pp. 90-109)
      Craig Reinarman

      The largest and longest-running social movement in nineteenth century America was the temperance movement. This movement has been read as a peculiarly Protestant American response to the wrenching change wrought by industrialization, urbanization, and immigration.¹ But whatever its structural, class, or ethnic underpinnings, the temperance movement took the phenomenological form of a struggle against booze—specifically against the loss of self-control attributed to drink. Because self-control was central to both the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, its loss was especially feared by nineteenth century Americans, who therefore blamed all manner of personal and social problems on alcohol.


    • CHAPTER 7 “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”: Notes toward a Remapping of the Sixties
      (pp. 110-130)
      Alice Echols

      The past, as historians have observed, offers us the opportunity to glimpse other possibilities, to see that the world needn’t be as it is now.¹ No period in recent U.S. history stands in greater contrast to the present, or seems to have held more possibilities for radical transformation, than the sixties. This is no doubt why the sixties remains the site of intense ideological contestation more than thirty years after it all began. While liberals have typically reacted to the sixties as an enormous embarrassment, conservatives have used the period to great political effect, deploying a version of the sixties...

  6. III Identity Politics and Activist Projects

    • CHAPTER 8 Sisters and Queers: The Decentering of Lesbian Feminism
      (pp. 133-153)
      Arlene Stein

      Recently, a forty-four year-old mother of two boys told me that “in the old days,” the 1970s, she could go to a particular place—a cafe or women’s center, for example—to find the lesbian community in her medium-sized town. But by the late 1980s, when she broke up with a longtime lover, she went out searching again for that community and couldn’t find it. Another woman I knew expressed fears about the number of lesbian friends she had lost to heterosexual conversions, having become convinced that more and more women were forsaking their lesbianism in exchange for what she...

    • CHAPTER 9 Small Change: Radical Politics since the 1960s
      (pp. 154-160)
      L. A. Kauffman

      One of the best places to take the erratic pulse of post-sixties culture isFactsheet Five, a thick, inexpensively produced bimonthly compendium of cultural and political marginalia. Boasting several thousand readers,FFprimarily lists zines (with “zine” being short for “fanzine,” whichFF’s former editor once defined as “anything published on a non-commercial scale”). Not a publication to limit its boundaries, however,Factsheet Fivehas also reviewed music, comics, poetry, computer software, pamphlets, books, mail art, “artifacts,” and videos.

      InFF’s pages, one can find endless improbable juxtapositions: a review ofNews and Notes from All Over(the newsletter of...

    • CHAPTER 10 Gay and Lesbian Experiences and Sensibilities in the Antiwar Movement
      (pp. 161-166)
      Mindy Spatt

      I am a member of DAGGER, Dykes and Gay Guys Emergency Response. We first started meeting in San Francisco in September 1990 to plan a lesbian and gay response to the escalating U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf.

      We were very successful both organizing in our own community and working in coalition with other groups to plan a city-wide response when the United States invaded Iraq in January 1991. Our participation in antiwar efforts was rarely noted in the local media, except for the gay and lesbian press. Gay and lesbian publications across the nation reported that as individuals and...

    • CHAPTER 11 Reweaving the New World Order: An Ecofeminist Analysis
      (pp. 167-173)
      Ilene Rose Feinman

      Of the 250,000 troops that the United States deployed during the Persian Gulf war, 33,000 were women.¹ The presence of these women in a military operation became a national obsession, sometimes extending to panic. Phyllis Schlafley of the Eagle Forum asked, “Have we lost our masculinity?”

      Operation “Desert Shield” became “Desert Storm” with U.S. air attacks against Iraq on January 16, 1991, and congressional debate over the Defense Appropriation Bill for 1992 heated up. Proposals were introduced both to exempt from active duty the parents of young children and to permit women’s increased participation in combat. The media quickly dubbed...

    • CHAPTER 12 Race: Theory, Culture, and Politics in the United States Today
      (pp. 174-188)
      Howard Winant

      The theme of race continues to occupy a central place in U.S. cultural, political, and economic life. But what does racemeanin the United States today? How can a concept with no scientific significance, a concept that is understood in such varied and often irrational ways, retain such force in our societal life? Why is race such an important source of meaning, identity, (dis)advantage, power, and powerlessness? What are the consequences of racial identity for its bearers, and how does the racial culture—the system of racial meanings and identities—shape the U.S. political order?

      The persistence of these...

    • CHAPTER 13 Industrial Racism, the Environmental Crisis, and the Denial of Social Justice
      (pp. 189-196)
      Cynthia Hamilton

      The future of capitalism depends on its capacity to expand, and today we are witnessing both its desperation and its extraordinary ability to appropriate everything in its own interest. Environmentalism is not escaping its grasp. As James O’Connor writes, “a certain amount of green capitalism is possible to the degree that such a system does not challenge or threaten the structures of privilege and power which capitalism depends on.”¹

      Green capitalism’s free-market rhetoric is fostering a great deal of confusion among those concerned about environmental degradation, and it will continue to do so unless and until we develop an independent...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Iconography of Hazardous Waste
      (pp. 197-222)
      Andrew Szasz

      The issue of hazardous industrial wastes has been arguably the most dynamic environmental issue of the past two decades. Even as other movements struggled just to stay alive during the conservative 1980s, concern about toxic industrial waste sparked a widespread, vigorous social movement. Thousands of local, community-based groups formed. A rich infrastructure of more permanent social movement organizations was built. The movement’s understanding of the toxics problem deepened, becoming more systematic and more radical. The movement’s combination of radical critique and direct, grassroots tactics is perhaps best described as “radical environmental populism.”

      The movement brought a new mass base of...

    • CHAPTER 15 The Media Environment after Desert Storm
      (pp. 223-232)
      Marcy Darnovsky

      One of the major themes of media coverage during the 1991 Gulf War was itself media coverage of the Gulf War. Denunciations and defenses of the media’s performance abounded in every genre of television and radio show and in every sort of newspaper and magazine. Stories about Pentagon press censorship and public approval of it,¹ about fan clubs for a CNN reporter and the slickness of the networks’ graphics, about Saddam Hussein’s television strategy—all of these “angles” provided grist for the saturation coverage of the war.²

      This pattern of media self-absorption was more than institutional conceit: The media in...

  7. IV Searching for Strategy:: Dilemmas of Activism

    • CHAPTER 16 Movements and Dissensus Politics
      (pp. 235-250)
      Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward

      Social movements unfold within a larger political context dominated by electoral politics. Recently, a number of analysts have puzzled over the question of how this context influences the rise and evolution of movements.¹ In this chapter we reverse the inquiry and examine the impact of social movements on electoral politics. We think the evidence suggests that movements playa large role, perhaps a determining role, in the periodic electoral dealignments and realignments that bring new regimes to power and usher in new public policy eras in American history.

      Social movements thrive on conflict. By contrast, electoral politics demands strategies of consensus...

    • CHAPTER 17 Think Globally, Act Politically: Some Notes toward New Movement Strategy
      (pp. 251-263)
      Richard Flacks

      Social movements arise when normal politics fail. The great American movements of labor, women, and blacks expressed the exclusion of their constituencies from the central political processes. Workers had no rights in their workplace to defend their life interests; at the same time, they could not find adequate political representation. Women and blacks could not vote at all, nor did they have institutional power to protect themselves.

      The primary victories of these movements were political: the right to vote, the right to organize and strike, the development of electoral constituencies with leverage, the achievement of legislative and judicial acknowledgement of...

    • CHAPTER 18 The Uses of Freedom: Postcommunist Transformation in Eastem Europe
      (pp. 264-286)
      Bronislaw Misztal

      There is no doubt that a profound change occurred somewhere between the time when, in Poland in June 1989, the deal negotiated by the Communists and the opposition had spontaneously fallen through (leaving both forces in a new parliamentary arrangement that was neither Communist controlled nor dominated by the non-Communists) and the moment when the Berlin Wall was dismantled in November of the very same year; between the death of Nicolae Ceauşescu in the winter of 1989, the relinquishing of Soviet presidential power by Gorbachev in winter of 1991, and the trial of Honnecker in the winter of 1992. The...

    • CHAPTER 19 The Global Planet and the Internal Planet: New Frontiers for Collective Action and Individual Transformation
      (pp. 287-298)
      Alberto Melucci

      I believe that contemporary social movements act as signals to remind us that both the external planet, the Earth as our homeland, and the internal planet, our “nature” as human beings, are undergoing radical transformations.

      The so-called “new social movements” have made inroads into scientific and political debate as well as into the collective consciousness. Such movements as feminism, youth mobilizations, environmentalism, and pacifism have helped to write new political agendas; they have provided economic, political, and cultural institutions with new leadership resources and with personnel selected through mobilizing activities; they have become stable components of the market as their...

    • CHAPTER 20 New Social Movements and the Transformation to Post-Fordist Society
      (pp. 299-319)
      Margit Mayer and Roland Roth

      This chapter examines some recent social movement theories to see what insights they might offer into the current contradictory situation of social movements in the advanced Western nations. We use Germany as a case in point, but many Western European and North American new social movements share this paradoxical situation: While they have managed to find recognition and support in broad sectors of society and while many of their demands have been incorporated into governmental policies and institutions, social dispossession and political disenfranchisement have been spreading, and political systems have in many respects become more intransigent to demands for civility...

    • CHAPTER 21 Rethinking Revolution in Light of the New Social Movements
      (pp. 320-344)
      Allen Hunter

      Few radicals call for revolution today, many considering it a dangerous chimera. The writer George Steiner has summarized the fear well: “When [Marx] urged a kingdom of social justice, of classless fraternity on earth, he was translating into secular terms the sunburst of the messianic.... Human egotism, the competitive pulse, the lust for waste and display can be suffocated only by tyrannical violence. And, in tum, those who practice such violence themselves wither into corruption. Ineluctably, collectivist-socialist ideals seem to lead to one or another form of the Gulag.”¹ Analytic Marxists and critical theorists alike reject the Hegelian, teleological elements...

  8. About the Contributors
    (pp. 347-350)
  9. Index
    (pp. 351-360)