query: social capital and community development

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Tue Jun 24 19:42:15 CDT 2003

[ed:  Peter offers some initial thoughts on the discussion and 
promises more.  Below that, Fran offers some thoughts.]

From: "Dr. Peter Cox" <peter.cox at chester.ac.uk>


Just to add my voice. I've been working on Social Movements and 
various forms of community building for a while now and think I 
ought to try and formalise a whole set of ideas about the debate 
that are floating in the air at the moment  

I'll try and get something written for the listings very soon 
specifically on SMs and CO. The problem with any study of social 
movements is that there is no agreement as to what a social 
movement is, and huge divergence between the various uses of 
the word, particularly between the way it has been used in the US 
and in the way the subject has been approached in Europe.  

Academically, and as a way of clearing the ground, the work by 
Mario Diani and Donatella Della Porta is a very clear starting point 
that summarises the debate as it stands. I'm going to try and get 
something written up on this as a matter of extreme urgency in the 
next fortnight, if you can wait that long.  

Dr. Peter Cox
Programme Leader in Community Studies
Department of Social and Communication Studies
Chester College


From: "Francis Tobin" <fxtobin at earthlink.net>

Interesting discussion, and one which is close to my heart. Doug 
Hess wants to clearly define and counterpose "organizing" and 
"social movements", suggests that organizing is not social 
movement work, and implies that what he considers "movement" 
activity comes from a few "activists" calling for a change that 
catches on.  Is there a living wage or an anti-sweatshop 
movement?  Is there a housing movement?  There _was_ a labor 
movement, would you define it as one today?  Is immigrant 
organizing also community organizing?  

Considering CO and social movement work as entirely 
dichotomous activities strikes me as both counterproductive (as 
suggested by Robert Fischer and those that complain CO adds up 
to less than the sum of its parts) and counter-historical for a 
number of reasons.  

As Randy and others have noted, organizing (including community 
organizing) has been intertwined with many social movements.  
Developing a locally-based network of people and institutions 
capable of addressing a range of issues defined by the members 
(i.e. CO) built much of the base for the civil rights movement, and 
continued to shape, carry out and sustain the movement's work and 
demands.  This is more than merely creating structures and 
developing leaders that are then subsumed in distinct and separate 
movement activities, but an active engagement in the movement, 
even if many movement activists were not also engaged in the CO.  

Rob Kleidman notes a dismissive attitude towards what is 
considered movement work by some in organizing circles.  This is 
counterproductive. The Director of a prominent local funder told a 
small but effective membership-based community organization I 
volunteer with:  "you have to decide if you're about organizing or 
about social justice."  This assumption that CO and justice work are 
such different animals assumes that:  1) a community organization 
cannot legitimately join a larger social movement, even if it sees 
that its community's fate is linked to that movement's goals, and 2) 
that "movement issues" (civil rights, worker rights or women's rights 
or "free trade", war, etc.) are not community issues ("what's 
invading other countries got to do with me?")  These are 
definitional (jurisdictional?) distinctions at odds with real life, in 
which all these issues, and the ideological frameworks supporting 
them (e.g. market/investor supremacy), play out where people live.   

Randy notes of the global justice movement: > The critics charge > 
activists with showing up for the demonstrations and then leaving > 
when the action is over, without attempting to build local > 
organizations that can take on global justice issues.  

Ironically, it was incorporating an analysis of how global justice 
issues (like neoliberal economic policy) impact our community, so 
as to increase our capacity to organize locally around both local 
and global economic issues, that partly led the funder to insist we 
choose between organizing and justice.  

I would generally concur with those suggesting that a linkage 
between CO and social justice movements should be nurtured, not 
shunned.  Movement vision can help animate CO, energize our 
members and can help us raise our sights.  CO infrastructure helps 
bring accountability and benchmarks of concrete steps towards the 
goals.  Power in pursuit of justice.  

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