Class and Movement-Building: How does Class Shape Participation in Movements?

At this political moment, we hear urgent calls to organize cross-class, multiracial progressive movements to press for fundamental change. Since activism looks different among people of different classes, the challenges of organizing progressive movements vary by class.

 College-educated professional-middle-class (PMC) and wealthy activists are more likely to make an individual commitment to an issue and then seek out a group with a compatible ideology and mission. Today millions of them want to be part of a resistance movement, but to the extent that some PMC-led organizations have an individualistic and ideological inner culture, they may repel some working-class potential recruits. How can PMC activists’ solidarity muscles and cross-class alliance-building skills be strengthened? Conversely, working-class and poor activists tend to get involved through preexisting affiliations, whether with a workplace, a religious congregation, a neighborhood, or through invitations from family members or friends. It’s a challenge to expand locally rooted working-class efforts beyond a trusted circle to wield more power in a wider sphere. How can the scope of working-class activism be widened? Also, working-class and poor people may be biographically unavailable due to being low-wage, undocumented, single parents, etc., yet many working-class, poor, and multiply marginalized people have been powerful activists. What processes of empowerment have enabled them to take on public leadership, and how can those be replicated in other communities?

Special thanks to Guest Editor Betsy Leondar-Wright, who curated this exciting dialogue.

Thanks also to our wonderful group of contributors.

Frederic Rose, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (essay)
Hahrie Han, University of California, Santa Barbara (essay)
Linda Stout, Spirit in Action (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

 

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