Politics: Get Into It!

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Politics: Get Into It!

Organizing, Ideology and its Discontents

Regardless of what your political desires might be, being a citizen in a democracy requires more from you than obedience.  You have to be involved, concerned and aware.  More and more it requires us to be mobilized.  Here is a list of reads where I found practical advice on how to be involved in politics and power. 

Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky
Written by the Godfather of classic union organizing this book was first published in 1971 and is still held as a hallmark text.  The first half of the book lays out general principle for a community organizer, a section I found at times shocking given the kinds of moral ambiguity that Alinsky seems to be suggesting.  He is fundamentally a pragmatist and you get to see just how his philosophy looks in  the second half of the book.  I think this is a great read and provides a kind of personal history that is relevant understanding what it takes to build a thriving grassroots democracy.
 
Trust Building by Rob Corcoran
This book is required reading in an era of re-emerging racial conflict generated by the violent deaths of black citizens at the hands of the police on the one hand, and a resurgence of white nationalist movements into the national spotlight on the other.  Practical experiences emerge naturally from documenting real world experiences of communities in conflict that choose to take action to build community across the lines.  You owe it to yourself and your fellow citizens to check out p. 199-203 to challenge and correct personal biases, the unconscious ones. 
 
The Power of the Powerless
This anthology peaks behind the Iron Curtain and gives a forecast of the peaceful revolutions that would follow the fall of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe.  Many of the writings are far more psychological and theoretical, giving an interest preference to intellectual pursuits and the ideological over practical actions.  A fascinating read that will challenge readers who aren’t familiar with more philosophical writing.  It is also worth considering dissident socialists within the Soviet Union, those who saw past the totalitarianism and dream of a “true socialism."
 
The Democracy Project by David Graeber
Graeber moves back and forth between broad social and political criticisms and a history of the forming and disillusionment of the Occupy Movement.  While it is overtly Left in its perspectives, the criticisms it offers are an indictment of the political system as a whole.  I include it because as an anthropologist, Graeber offers profound cultural insight about the core beliefs that limit our options and shape our future possibilities.  There are few writers who see so clearly how blind we are in our national discourse to reality.  The police violence described is not for the faint of heart.
 
Democracy for Realists by Christopher Achen & Larry Bartels
An unbridled academic mud-slinging contest.  Want to know the problem with democracy?  Look everywhere!  This book comes as the work of decades from two established academics.  They seek to lay bare all of the things they have learned about the disconnect between our beliefs and our behaviors, between our ardent desires and policy results, between the people and their government.  My reading suggests the whole work is spurious, hinging on false-equivocation and falling prey to the erosion of the good.  Let me know what you think.