Review: Piven and Cloward’s Poor People’s Movements

Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail
Frances Fox Piven, Richard Cloward

The classic Marxist tract every undergraduate leftist must read. Basically, by looking at specific case studies, including labor struggles and the civil rights movement, Piven and Cloward argue that poor people’s movements grow and flourish when they are amorphous and lead from below. They whither and die when top down leadership tries to stifle the movements natural radical democracy. What is important for a successful movement is therefore not that it has access to money and elite circles, but rather that it gathers widespread public support and disrupts the social order in a way that creates new, exciting opportunity.

My political theory education is spotty at best, but I think there’s a lot of truth in here, even if it is presented in, perhaps, a reductionist way.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

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