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How is it that a distinguished university professor, past president of the American Sociological Association, and recipient of numerous awards and accolades for her work on behalf of the poor and for American voting rights, has attracted so much negative attention? For anyone who is skeptical of the World According to Beck, here is a guide to the ideas that Glenn fears most.
Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? is a concise, accessible introduction to Piven’s actual thinking (versus Beck’s outrageous claims), from her early work on welfare rights and “poor people’s movements,” written with her late husband Richard Cloward, through her influential examination of American voting habits, and her most recent work on the possibilities for a new movement for progressive reform. A major corrective to right-wing bombast, this essential book is also a rich source of ideas and inspiration for anyone interested in progressive change.
A selection of scholarly and polemical writing by the co-author ofPoor People's Movements(1977), occasioned by her elevation to Queen of Darkness by Glenn Beck and other hard-line conservatives.
Perhaps most alarming is the epilogue, a reprint of aneditorial from early 2011 that quotes some of the murderous e-mail (and some even more threatening posts on Beck's website) addressed to Piven (Political Science and Sociology/CUNY; Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America, 2006, etc.), messages occasioned by Beck's demonization of her on his defunct TV show. In reply, Piven offers a chronological series of essays and excerpts that outline her principal positions since 1963. (There is also an afterword, an amiable interview with Cornel West about Piven's life and beliefs.) It's safe to say—given the academic tenor and diction of these selections—that many (most?) of Piven's enemies have not read her. Her long professional and personal mission has been to study and advance the rights and the political power of the poor and otherwise disenfranchised. The research she and her husband conducted established some fundamental principles that appear throughout: The poor have what she calls "disruptive" power, the power to reverse, though usually only temporarily, the normal hierarchy of social relations. The status quo has a numbing effect on the lower levels of society, often inhibiting organization and action. Most newly registered voters (as many as 80 percent) do not vote; the domination of one party in an area suppresses voter turnout. At times, Piven is very prescient: In a 1983 piece, she predicted the very process that brought about the destruction of ACORN in recent months. She also maintains a cool, realistic eye, writing, for example, that Barack Obama "is not a visionary or even a movement leader."
Scholarly, committed and tendentious—but hardly insurrectional or satanic.
1 Low-Income People and the Political Process, 1963 l
2 The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty, 1966 18
3 Economic Collapse, Mass Unemployment, and the Rise of Disorder, 1971 41
4 The Structuring of Protest, 1977 67
5 The Welfare Rights Movement, 1977 103
6 Toward a Class-Based Realignment of American Politics: A Movement Strategy, 1983 163
7 Does Voting Matter?, 2000 194
8 The Nature of Disruptive Power, 2006 207
9 Obama Needs a Protest Movement, 2008 227
10 Mobilizing the Jobless, 2010 232
Epilogue: Glenn Beck Targets Frances Fox Piven, 2011 237
Afterword: An interview with Frances Fox Piven by Cornel West 241
Posted October 15, 2011
Posted December 22, 2011
A concise primer on the problems facing America, and open democracy in general. Replete with solutions, framed in the values that drove Tom Paine.
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Posted November 2, 2011
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