Governing NOW: Grassroots Activism in the National Organization for Women

Governing NOW: Grassroots Activism in the National Organization for Women

by Maryann Barakso


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Boasting more than five hundred thousand contributing members and five hundred chapters nationwide, the National Organization for Women has been politically active for more than thirty-five years. In a book that offers tools for predicting the long-term viability of a range of organizations, Maryann Barakso traces the political development of NOW. According to Barakso, NOW's activities and the stances it has taken throughout its history have been shaped primarily by the organization's internal political system. Established during the group's founding period, NOW's governance structure consists of a set of principles and institutional rules that continue to guide the group's internal political dynamics and its decision-making.

Focusing on interactions between NOW leaders and rank-and-file members, Barakso reveals how the organization's internal structure affects its development and its participation in the wider political arena. The author also reveals why strategic change has always been such a contentious issue for the organization, the ways in which NOW enhances civic and political engagement, and the limits on NOW's future mobilizing capacity.

Governing NOW contributes to a deeper understanding of membership-based voluntary associations: why they choose some goals and tactics over others, why they invest resources as they do, and why they join or abstain from coalition politics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801489105
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 10/14/2004
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Maryann Barakso is Assistant Professor of Political Science at UMass Amherst.

What People are Saying About This

Anne Costain

"Maryann Barakso's analysis of the organizational tactics and strategies developed by NOW is exceptionally well done. She combines field research, documentary analysis, and interviews of activists, members, and leaders with participant observation at NOW conferences. Further, she ties together a range of the literature on political organizations and interest-group politics with social-movement theory, presenting a unique and persuasive interpretation of NOW's actions."

Lois Galgay Reckitt

"Maryann Barakso has captured the excitement and frustration of NOW's external and internal struggles. Whether or not you were lucky enough to live this history, this is a must read."

Jeffrey M. Berry

"Few political scientists have examined a single organization with such clarity and insight. Maryann Barakso's Governing NOW is an important and impressive work."

Debra Minkoff

"Through a careful and original case study of NOW, Maryann Barakso demonstrates that social-movement organizations can maintain a commitment to their founding principles while weathering the vagaries of the political-electoral system. The key to NOW's persistence, according to Barakso, is linked to its governance structure, which altered over time to provide ongoing mechanisms for member input and leadership accountability in ways that enabled the organization to stay true to its guiding principles. This well-written, informative account is linked to such critical moments as NOW's founding, formalization, and transformation in light of changed political circumstances."

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