Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America

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Activism, Inc. introduces America to an increasingly familiar political actor: the canvasser. She's the twenty-something with the clipboard, stopping you on the street or knocking on your door, the foot soldier of political campaigns.

Granted unprecedented access to the "People's Project," an unknown yet influential organization driving left-leaning grassroots politics, Dana Fisher tells the true story of outsourcing politics in America. Like the major corporations that outsourced their customer service to companies abroad, the grassroots campaigns of national progressive movements—including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Save the Children, and the Human Rights Campaign—have been outsourced at different times to this single organization. During the 2004 presidential campaign, the Democratic Party followed a similar outsourcing model for their canvassing.

Fisher examines the history and rationale behind political outsourcing on the Left, weaving together frank interviews with canvassers, high-ranking political officials across the political spectrum, and People's Project management. She compares all of this to the grassroots efforts on the Right, which remain firmly grounded in communities and local politics.

This book offers a chilling review of the consequences of political outsourcing. Connecting local people on the streets throughout America to the national organizations and political campaigns that make up progressive politics, it shows what happens to the passionate young activists outsourced to the clients of Activism, Inc.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book describes how grassroots politics has withered and what must be done to revive it. A timely message for America in the 21st century."—Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

"Fisher has written an inspiring and insightful study of the crisis of left-leaning civic live in modern America... her diligent, non-judgmental primary research overturns every half-baked and ill-formed prejudice that ha been spouted about 'middle America' on both sides of the pond."—Spiked Review of Books

"Dana Fishers Activism, Inc. is an extraordinarily important and incisive book, both readable and extremely well informed. An insiders look at todays civic activism and Democratic Party campaigns, it could well catalyze a national debate on the future and nature of progressive politics."—Harry C. Boyte, Co-Director, Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs

"What a delicious political irony! Progressivism, champion of the little person, has organized its grassroots outreach like a 19th-century meat-packing plant, burning out young workers with low pay, long hours, and regimented, alienating working conditions. In this imminently readable, insightful volume, Dana Fisher brings us face to face with this counterintuitive state of affairs. Conservatives may draw some comfort from it. But as Americans, we should all be alarmed at the pitiless strip-mining of our young peoples idealism."—William A. Schambra, Director, Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, Hudson Institute

"An original grass roots critique as to why progressive citizen groups and the Democratic Party are failing to prevail and weakening themselves. Dana Fisher argues that you cannot outsource democratic movements. Listen up, national progressive groups, Fishers insights are lighting up the path to greater effectiveness. Democrats also would be well advised to put this book at the top of their reading list. That is, if they want to understand better how to win elections."—Ralph Nader

Library Journal
This scholarly ethnography addresses one aspect of a question accomplished sociologist Fisher (sociology, Columbia Univ.; National Governance and the Global Climate Change Regime) has devoted her career to studying: what is the role of the citizen in a democracy? Specifically, what paid roles are there for young, college-educated, left-leaning citizens in a capitalist democracy, and how has their role in fact affected the results? Her reflections are insightful and sobering. Most progressive groups now outsource campaigns to a network of professionally run field offices. Fisher's refreshingly reflexive exploration of this world of the overworked, underappreciated political canvasser allows these young idealists to speak for themselves. Her analysis of the sociopolitical implications of the grass-roots trend highlights the tension activists feel between the desire for authentic political engagement and the need to earn a living. Fisher succinctly describes (and laments) the paucity of employment opportunities available to capable and committed political activists and notes the greater success of preexisting right-wing grass-roots communities to the Left's outsourcing. Few scholars have taken such a close look at the individuals involved in progressive activism and their backgrounds, motivations, and experiences, which makes Fisher's work an important contribution to the study of social movements. Required reading for anyone considering a summer job trying to change the world; highly recommended, especially for academic libraries.-Theresa Kintz, Wilkes Univ., PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804752176
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/26/2006
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 168
  • Sales rank: 1,260,541
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Dana R. Fisher is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. Her first book, National Governance and the Global Climate Change Regime, was published in 2004.

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