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Organizing people power change spring 2018 resources

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Organizing: People, Power, ChangeSpring 2018resources interdependently in ways they had not done before: e.g. cooperative childcare, andcredit unions. On the other hand, where real conflicts of interest exist, organizing requires a“claims making” strategy, mobilizing constituency resources to alter relationships of dependencyand domination. If workers combine their resources in a union they may be able to balance theirindividual dependency on their employer with his dependency on their labor as a whole. In thisway dependent “power over” relationship can become interdependent “power to” relationship.But creating the power to successfully challenge “power over” may require some “powerto” first. Many unions, for example, began with death benefit societies, sickness funds, and creditunions. On the other hand, efforts that began to create “power with” may turn out to be actuallychallenging “power over” as conflicts of interest that were not previously apparent surface. Thestrongest opposition to a recent effort to create a community credit union in New York camefrom actors no one considered—the loan sharks and their political allies.Three Faces of PowerWhy are conflicts of interest not always apparent? As John Gaventa argues poweroperates on multiple levels, illustrated in Chart #6 below.7We can detect the first “face” ofpower— the visible face—by observing who wins among decision makers faced with choices asto how to allocate resources. Attend a board meeting, city council meeting, legislative session, orboard meeting and you’ll see one side win and another side lose, showing who’s got the power.But there’s more to it than that. Who decides what gets on the agenda to be decided? Andwho decides who sits at the table making decisions?Lukes calls deciding what’s on the agendaand who sits at the table the second “face” of power.This can be observed when there aregroups clamoring to get issues on the agenda, but can’t get past the “gatekeeper.”This is thesituation that African Americans faced during many years of apparent “racial harmony” beforethe civil rights movement.There was no lack of groups trying to bring racial issues beforeCongress, but these issues rarely got to the point of congressional debate because thosecontrolling the agenda kept them off the floor.The third “face” of power is harder to detect. Sometimes the power relationships thatshape our world are so deeply embedded that we “take them for granted.” Before the women’smovement, for example, few people claimed job discrimination against women was “an issue."Women’s interests were not being voted down in Congress (there were almost no women inCongress) and women’s groups were not picketing outside, unable to place their issue on the7J. Gaventa, (1982), Power and Powerlessness:Quiescence and rebellion in an Appalachian Valley. (Champaign, IL, University ofIllinois Press).

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Term
Fall
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NoProfessor
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Management, Want, Jocelyn Brown

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