No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age

No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age

The crisis of the progressive movement is so evident that nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of its basic assumptions is required. Today's progressives now work for professional organizations more comfortable with the inside game in Washington DC (and capitols throughout the West), where they are outmatched and outspent by corporate interests. Labor unions now focus on the narrowest possible understanding of the interests of their members, and membership continues to decline in lockstep with the narrowing of their goals. Meanwhile, promising movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter lack sufficient power to accomplish meaningful change. Why do progressives in the United States keep losing on so many issues?

In No Shortcuts, Jane McAlevey argues that progressives can win, but lack the organized power to enact significant change, to outlast their bosses in labor fights, and to hold elected leaders accountable. Drawing upon her experience as a scholar and longtime organizer in the student, environmental, and labor movements, McAlevey examines cases from labor unions and social movements to pinpoint the factors that helped them succeed - or fail - to accomplish their intended goals. McAlevey makes a compelling case that the great social movements of previous eras gained their power from mass organizing, a strategy today's progressives have mostly abandoned in favor of shallow mobilization or advocacy. She ultimately concludes that, in order to win, progressive movements need strong unions built from bottom-up organizing strategies that place the power for change in the hands of workers and ordinary people at the community level.

Beyond the concrete examples in this book, McAlevey's arguments have direct implications for anyone involved in organizing for social change. Much more than cogent analysis, No Shortcuts explains exactly how progressives can go about rebuilding powerful movements at work, in our communities, and at the ballot box.

Title:No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age
ISBN:9780190624712
Format Type:

    No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age Reviews

  • Matt Gladue

    There is a solid argument at the heart of this book. Workers are losing and working class communities are losing because the organizing that built the CIO has been replaced by mobilizing, the media, a...

  • Conor Ahern

    I big-bodied my way onto a C train one morning and the guy that I nudged forward kept looking back at me. The train I take to work in the morning--a local--is often so crowded that even breaking out a...

  • Sean Estelle

    This was no-nonsense, piercing reflection & analysis of the strategic thinking, tactics, and possibilities for key segments of the movement. Some may bristle at the insight provided on Alinskyism/mobi...

  • Deb Ramage

    She tells a great story and it's got a lot of good lessons for organizers of all types. It doesn't quite deliver on the claim that union organizing strategies have application to social movement organ...

  • Dana Sweeney

    I have been reading book after book after book trying to get a sense of how the American left can [re]build power in the face of the brilliant, devastating, decades-long strategies employed by the cor...

  • Jeffrey

    Interesting little book describing how unions can be successful when they focus on ground-up organizing instead of playing power politics (poorly) and trying to mobilize only. Interesting that the fai...

  • Mary

    Sometimes dry reading, but immensely practical. A must-read for activists on the left.I do wish, though, that McAlevey had described in more depth what her organizing strategies might look like outsid...

  • Darran Mclaughlin

    Superb. Really thought provoking. Made me reflect a lot on my recent intense experience of organising (or as it turns out, mobilising). Excellent book. Essential reading for anyone engaged in politica...

  • John

    Full of actionable insights, inspiring stories that are meticulously researched, and bursts of good wit, too....

  • Juan

    Great read for union and community organizers. All workers unionize or not should read this book. This book gives you a contemporary analysis of the current worker struggle in the US. ...