Betsy Leondar-Wright : Missing Class: How Seeing Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University/ILR Press, 2014. 288 pp. $21.95, paperback.
Social class has always been an important element in research on social movements and their organizations. Much of it stems from Marx, of course, but also from later authors such as Alberto Melucci, Claus Offe, and Kathleen Blee who examined the ways that social class shapes how people pursue political goals. This recent book is an examination of how social class shapes activism. Using data from two years of field work and dozens of interviews, Leondar-Wright shows how class differences guide activists as they work together.
This book has many virtues. For example, it presents a typology of progressive groups that captures the major streams of North American progressivism, including its most radical elements, such as anarchists. The numerous illuminating examples of people employing class-based rhetoric in their meetings is another strength. The book’s greatest virtue is that it makes a strong case that class cultures do create substantial barriers among activists and can undermine their groups’ efficacy. Anyone working with people of varying class backgrounds will appreciate the material presented in this book.
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