Politics as education

Boyte, Harry C.
March 1990
Social Policy;Spring90, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p35
Academic Journal
This article presents a response to a series of articles on community activism in the Spring and Summer 1989 issues of Social Policy. Contributors to the recent Social Policy symposium on community activism have pointed out the increasing sophistication in approaches to community action. Moreover, after declining in the 1980s from its peak in 1979--when according to Gallup polling, 25 million Americans said they were involved in some sort of community action --the last two years have seen a modest rise again in the numbers of people active in community efforts. Whether such activism will have any significant impact on the dismal national political environment remains an open but crucial question. Two dominant strategies have emerged in the debate about the future of community action. One might be called localist. It uses communities to look to their own capacities and aim at internal processes of community-building, not focus on what they might get from outside systems and professionals. The other is ideologically progressive, proposing the politicizing of local effort in order to lift the gaze of community activists to the crises facing the U.S. and the world. These positions represent somewhat chastened versions of alternatives for organizing that have existed and conflicted with each other for twenty years.


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