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Contesting Community

Contesting Community: The Limits and Potential of Local Organizing

James DeFilippis
Robert Fisher
Eric Shragge
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Contesting Community
    Book Description:

    What do community organizations and organizers do, and what should they do? For the past thirty years politicians, academics, advocates, and activists have heralded community as a site and strategy for social change. In contrast,Contesting Communitypaints a more critical picture of community work which, according to the authors--in both theory and practice--has amounted to less than the sum of its parts. Their comparative study of efforts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada describes and analyzes the limits and potential of this work.Covering dozens of groups, including ACORN, Brooklyn's Fifth Avenue Committee, and the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal, and discussing alternative models, this book is at once historical and contemporary, global and local.Contesting Communityaddresses one of the vital issues of our day--the role and meaning of community in people's lives and in the larger political economy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4974-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book grew out of our shared concerns about what has happened to community, community organizations, and the politics and policies that shape them. Although we all teach in universities, we have long personal engagements in community and social justice work, and are active in, or allies with, a number of community organizations whose work informs our understanding of contemporary practice. Our interest in local community is tied to a broad social and economic critique of neoliberal forms of capitalism. We believe that the struggle for social change, shaped by the goals of social and economic justice and equality, is...

  5. Chapter 1 Community and Its Discontents
    (pp. 7-34)

    It takes more than a community to address a global economic crisis. Policies of unregulated capitalism have resulted in a global economic tsunami, for nation-states and for community activists and the organizations in which they work. This “state of emergency” is not uncommon; it is, as Walter Benjamin put it, “not the exception but the rule” (1969, 257). We should be used to the bust cycles of capitalism, since these cyclical downturns happen so frequently, but people somehow think they, or the new economic paradigm of the moment, are immune to a severe downturn. The role of community in and...

  6. Chapter 2 History Matters: Canons, Anti-canons, and Critical Lessons from the Past
    (pp. 35-66)

    The history of community initiatives reveals a complex past, one which if viewed with a wide-angle lens instantly expands understanding of the varied goals, politics, and shapes community efforts take. The complex history and diverse forms result from a number of factors, chief among them the historical context that shapes and helps produce a dominant form of community-based effort in each era. This dominant type not only mirrors broader contemporary phenomena but responds to and affects them as well. This history is a contested one, because community efforts are fundamentally political and, whether groups like it or not, implicitly or...

  7. Chapter 3 The Market, the State, and Community in the Contemporary Political Economy
    (pp. 67-97)

    Neoliberalism plays a constitutive part of community practice in the contemporary Anglo-American world. More specifically, there are two principal forces of neoliberalism that pertain to community-based efforts—the primacy of the market and the decentralization of the state. First, in contemporary community-based efforts there is an acceptance of the market as the principal arbiter in the allocation of goods, services, wealth, and income in society. Even within the current context, with its greater recognition of market failures, there is relatively little appetite to theorize other, or alternative, kinds of economic relations in society. Most striking about this embrace of the...

  8. Chapter 4 “It Takes a Village”: Community as Contemporary Social Reform
    (pp. 98-133)

    While the contemporary turn to and romance of community is grounded in the neoliberal ideas and policies discussed in chapter 3, not all ideas about the importance of community, or new strategies and programs reflecting these ideas, are designed to perpetuate the unbridled free market or the decentralization of organizational forms. In fact, many have specifically denied that the turn to community is related to the neoliberal retreat of the state. Xavier de Souza Briggs, one of the most prominent of the contemporary writers on community, has explicitly stated that his embrace of community as the solution to social problems...

  9. Chapter 5 What’s Left in the Community?
    (pp. 134-164)

    Up to this point, our book has examined the limits and virtues of community-based organizations. Our central argument has been that over the last thirty years the shrinking of political goals of these organizations has been accompanied by a narrowing of the frame of reference in community-based efforts to a focus on the community in and of itself. But despite the larger tendencies of weakened political demands and shrinking perspectives, there are still significant efforts in Anglo-American communities that have not lost sight of the goals of social and economic justice for their communities. There are still community-based efforts that...

  10. Chapter 6 Radicalizing Community
    (pp. 165-182)

    We write the conclusion for this book in the midst of a crisis of global capitalism and of the neoconservative and neoliberal strategies that have dominated the world stage for the past thirty years. We are in an historical moment in which grassroots-led social change has become a possibility again. Even when the right-wing ideologies and related policies seemed impenetrable, critics and activists underscored the contradictions inherent in the hegemonic context. Thankfully and predictably, neither hegemony nor context is permanent. The global economic crisis that began in 2008 has become the backdrop for what seems to be a shift away...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-198)
  12. Index
    (pp. 199-210)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-211)