A critique of movement-building via institutions


in Politics

Our main point, however, is not simply that efforts to build organizations are futile. The more important point is that by endeavoring to do what they cannot do, organizers fail to do what they can do. During those brief periods in which people are roused to indignation, when they are prepared to defy the authorities to whom they ordinarily defer, during those brief moments when lower-class groups exert some force against the state, those who call themselves leaders do not usually escalate the momentum of the people’s protests. They do not because they are preoccupied with trying to build and sustain embryonic formal organizations in the sure conviction that these organizations will enlarge and become powerful. Thus the studies that follow show that, all too often, when workers erupted in strikes, organizers collected dues cards; when tenants refused to pay rent and stood off marshals, organizers formed building committees; when people were burning and looting, organizers used that ‘moment of madness’ to draft constitutions.

Piven, Frances Fox and Richard A. Cloward. Poor People’s Movements: Why they Succeed, How they Fail. Random House, 1979. p. xxi-xxii

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R.K. February 7, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Does this apply equally to long-term crises? Climate change can’t be solved in a moment of madness

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