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Contesting Community

The Limits and Potential of Local Organizing

James DeFilippis, Robert Fisher, and Eric Shragge

Publication Year: 2010

What do community organizations and organizers do, and what should they do? Contesting Community addresses one of the vital issues of our day-the role and meaning of community in people's lives and in the larger political economy. It paints a more critical picture of community work which, according to the authors-in both theory and practice-has amounted to less than the sum of its parts. Their comparative study of efforts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada describes and analyzes the limits and potential of this work.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-ix

This book has gone through a long process of writing and revision. Accordingly, we have compiled a set of debts to friends and colleagues who have commented on earlier forms of it and its arguments. The arguments we are making were first aired at the annual conference of the Urban Affairs Association in Montreal in 2006. We learned a lot from...

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pp. 1-6

This book grew out of our shared concerns about what has happened to community, community organizations, and the politics and policies that shape them. Although we all teach in universities, we have long personal engagements in community and social justice work, and are active in, or allies with, a number of community organizations whose work informs our understanding of contemporary ...

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1. Community and Its Discontents

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pp. 7-34

It takes more than a community to address a global economic crisis. Policies of unregulated capitalism have resulted in a global economic tsunami, for nation-states and for community activists and the organizations in which they work. This “state of emergency” is ...

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2. History Matters: Canons, Anti-canons, and Critical Lessons from the Past

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pp. 35-66

The history of community initiatives reveals a complex past, one which if viewed with a wide-angle lens instantly expands understanding of the varied goals, politics, and shapes community efforts take. The complex history and diverse forms result from a number of factors, chief among them the historical context that shapes ...

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3. The Market, the State, and Community in the Contemporary Political Economy

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pp. 67-97

Neoliberalism plays a constitutive part of community practice in the contemporary Anglo-American world. More specifically, there are two principal forces of neoliberalism that pertain to community-based efforts—the primacy of the market and the decentralization of the state. First, in contemporary community-based efforts ...

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4. “It Takes a Village”: Community as Contemporary Social Reform

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pp. 98-133

While the contemporary turn to and romance of community is grounded in the neoliberal ideas and policies discussed in chapter 3, not all ideas about the importance of community, or new strategies and programs reflecting these ideas, are designed to perpetuate the unbridled free market or the decentralization of organizational ...

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5. What’s Left in the Community?

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pp. 134-164

Up to this point, our book has examined the limits and virtues of community-based organizations. Our central argument has been that over the last thirty years the shrinking of political goals of these organizations has been accompanied by a narrowing of the frame of reference in community-based efforts to a focus on the community in ...

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6. Radicalizing Community

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pp. 165-182

We write the conclusion for this book in the midst of a crisis of global capitalism and of the neoconservative and neoliberal strategies that have dominated the world stage for the past thirty years. We are in an historical moment in which grassroots-led social change has become a possibility again. Even when the right-wing ideologies and ...


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pp. 183-197


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pp. 199-210

About the Authors

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p. 211

E-ISBN-13: 9780813549743
E-ISBN-10: 0813549744
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813547558
Print-ISBN-10: 0813547555

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 772000547
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Contesting Community

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Community organization.
  • Community development.
  • Political participation.
  • Social change.
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