The crisis of the progressive movement is so evident that nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of its basic assumptions is required. Today's progressives now work for professional organizations more comfortable with the inside game in Washington DC (and capitols throughout the West), where they are outmatched and outspent by corporate interests. Labor unions now focus on the narrowest possible understanding of the interests of their members, and membership continues to decline in lockstep with the narrowing of their goals. Meanwhile, promising movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter lack sufficient power to accomplish meaningful change. Why do progressives in the United States keep losing on so many issues?
In No Shortcuts, Jane McAlevey argues that progressives can win, but lack the organized power to enact significant change, to outlast their bosses in labor fights, and to hold elected leaders accountable. Drawing upon her experience as a scholar and longtime organizer in the student, environmental, and labor movements, McAlevey examines cases from labor unions and social movements to pinpoint the factors that helped them succeed - or fail - to accomplish their intended goals. McAlevey makes a compelling case that the great social movements of previous eras gained their power from mass organizing, a strategy today's progressives have mostly abandoned in favor of shallow mobilization or advocacy. She ultimately concludes that, in order to win, progressive movements need strong unions built from bottom-up organizing strategies that place the power for change in the hands of workers and ordinary people at the community level.
Beyond the concrete examples in this book, McAlevey's arguments have direct implications for anyone involved in organizing for social change. Much more than cogent analysis, No Shortcuts explains exactly how progressives can go about rebuilding powerful movements at work, in our communities, and at the ballot box.
"McAlevey's decades as a labor and community organizer means that she knows what organizers do, or should do. This book lifts the lessons McAlevey takes from that craft into the intellectual realm of power and politics. This book is for anyone who wants a democratic society in which ordinary people share power." -- Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America
"Jane McAlevey is a deeply experienced, uncommonly reflective organizer. In No Shortcuts, McAlevey stresses the distinction between mobilizing and organizing and examines how systematic conflation of the two has reflected and reinforced the labor movement's decline over recent decades. More than a how-to manual for organizers, No Shortcuts is a serious, grounded rumination on building working-class power. It is a must read for everyone
concerned with social justice in the US." -- Adolph Reed, Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
"Jane McAlevey is one of the few analysts of social movements today who takes class power and class struggle seriously. McAlevey understands their ineluctable concreteness and force from years of organizing democratic unions that have effectively battled powerful corporations. This is a book for citizens and activists--but also for students and scholars of social movements--who want to understand how the world can and has been changed for the better." -- Jeff
Goodwin, Professor of Sociology, New York University
"Whether it is Black Lives Matter, climate change, feeling the Bern, or worker rights, success hinges on the ability to build real and sustainable power. Jane McAlevey gives us both a practical guide and a set of underlying principles to understand how organizing matters more than any other available strategy to grow power, and, what it means to organize. A must read for anyone hoping to create a better world." -- Dan Clawson, Professor of Sociology, University
of Massachusetts at Amherst
"For those of us grappling with the near-overwhelming difficulties of the 'how-to' of changing our workplaces, communities, and society, No Shortcuts is an invaluable resource." --Jacobin
List of Figures
List of Tables
2. The Power to Win is in the Community, Not the Boardroom
3. Nursing Home Unions: Class Snuggle vs. Class Struggle
4. Chicago Teachers: Building a Resilient Union
5. Smithfield Foods: A Huge Success You've Hardly Heard About
6. Make the Road New York
7. Conclusion: Pretend Power vs. Actual Power