Cultural Dilemmas of Progressive PoliticsStyles of Engagement among Grassroots Activists

Cultural Dilemmas of Progressive PoliticsStyles of Engagement among Grassroots Activists

Stephen Hart

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226318172

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Why have conservatives fared so much better than progressives in recent decades, even though polls show no significant move to the right in public opinion? This book highlights one reason: that progressives often adopt impoverished modes of discourse, ceding the moral high ground to their conservative rivals. The book also shows that some progressive groups are pioneering more robust ways of talking about their issues and values, providing examples other progressives could emulate. Through case studies of grassroots movements—particularly the economic justice work carried on by congregation-based community organizing and the pursuit of human rights by local members of Amnesty International—the book shows how these groups develop distinctive ways of talking about politics and create characteristic stories, ceremonies, and practices. According to this book, the way people engage in politics matters just as much as the content of their ideas: when activists make the moral basis for their activism clear, engage issues with passion, and articulate a unified social vision, they challenge the recent ascendancy of conservative discourse. On the basis of these case studies, the book addresses currently debated topics such as individualism in America and whether strains of political thought strongly informed by religion and moral values are compatible with tolerance and liberty.