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Case #721

Bridging the Class Divide in US Peace and Social Justice Movements


"Bridging the Class Divide" by Linda Stout and "Politics and the Class Divide" by David Croteau are two books that hold insights into the political behavior and thoughts of the contemporary working class in the US. Stout's and Croteau's books were published in 1996 and 1995 respectively, but the insights they yield are not reflected in how middle-class peace and justice movements orient their activism. In this commentary (Full Text below), the article's author offers a small portion of what middle-class activists can learn from these books. She urges activists to buy them, study them, and incorporate their lessons. People will find various ways of taking these lessons forward into their work, but a key question to ask oneself is whether you have a way to listen to what working-class people are saying. Many middle-class activists do not. Or alternatively, they actively block out the message because it doesn't fit with their agenda. This is one of the ways social change movements are classist, and therefore one of the ways we dehumanize our own movements and decrease their chances of success. Bridging the Class Divide and Politics and the Class Divide provide activists with a way to begin to listen to working-class voices.


THE STRATEGY: Use these two books to raise and/or change US middle class activists' views of the political leanings of the working class. "When middle-class activists approach organizing with the assumption that they need to enlighten and educate the duped and the unaware, they may be contributing to the class divide that exists in current social change movements." From David Croteau: "Workers are aware of the existence of significant social and political problems and issues. But social movement activists do not fully recognize this awareness on the part of workers. Workers have a good grasp of major issue areas and recognize the need for change in the political sphere."

WHAT WORKS: Understanding the differences between middle class and working class approaches to political issues in the following ways: (1) Trying to build on disillusionment and (versus) despair (2) Focusing on knowledge rather than action (3) Insufficiently valuing effectiveness (4) Settling for the "good fight" as opposed to winning (5)

IMPORTANT POINTS: Authored by progressives from working-class backgrounds, both of these excellent books help illuminate the class divide that is typical in today's social change movements. The Full Text gives examples of each of the differing political class-based viewpoints listed above.
Location: usa
Action: Political, Education/P.R.
Setting: Developed World
Extent of Action: National
Year(s): 2003
Outcome concept (promising but not tried)
Source: www.zmag.org/stratvision.htm, www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2003-10/25peters.cfm


Prepared By: sl, 4/06
Rating: 1
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