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Poor People’s Movements

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1 Poor People’s Movements
Piven and Cloward Intro and Ch. 1 Having just read about mob violence in Chicago as an expression of the interests of white ethnics, we might picture movements or protest as a surge of irrational behavior. P and C present a very different picture.

2 Main Questions Addressed by Book
Institutional conditions that make movements possible Institutional conditions that determine forms taken by mass movements Institutional conditions which determine responses of elites

3 Did they mention “Institutional Conditions”?
“Protest is also not a matter of free choice” (3) “The occasions when protest is possible among the poor, the forms that it must take, and the impact it can have are all delimited by the social structure in ways which usually diminish its extent and diminish its force” (3). Protest is not an irrational surge of emotion but highly determined by “institutional conditions” such as the electoral system or bureaucracy that are already in place.

4 P and C’s Definition of Protest
Entails a transformation of consciousness System loses legitimacy People who are usually fatalistic begin to demand rights People believe they have some capacity to alter their lot T

5 Entails a change in behavior
Masses of people become defiant (violate traditions and laws) Defiance is acted out collectively Not about formalized organizations The focus on defiance and not on formal organizations opens up what is defined as a “protest”. It need not have a leader or an organization to be an expression of people’s interest and a force for change. This is obvious from what we saw as the influence of violence on policy makers in Chicago.

6 Life-Cycle of a Protest
Time of momentous changes in institutional order (can be a pressures that force eruption or breakdown of regulatory capacity) Form of protest largely determined by features of social structure Elites respond (ignore, repress, or concede, Conciliate, Coopt, Undermine sympathy) Protest gains momentum, institutional accommodation and coercion restore order May leave residues of reform

7 “Protesters win, if they win at all, what historical circumstances has already made ready to be conceded” (36)

8 Mass membership versus mass mobilization
Formal organizations Focus on momentum rather than organization Where elites fit in (conferred resources) Leaders failed to take into account social structure and exploit opportunities

9 Where Marx comes in Critics from the “left” (Interesting: They are all Marxists), formal orgs Dominant elites are key players in P and C Poor-stratum within working class

10 Boycott Working class? What does “defiance” look like?

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