Theories of Neighborhood
Organization and the Radical
Politics of Local Control *
THE purpose of neighborhood action today is to regain self-rule and representation in municipal government. This is the goal of the present struggle between localities and metropolitan empires, and it requires that we determine the most effective organization of the neighborhood for this struggle.
Our purpose in this survey is to point out what is valuable and dismiss what is erroneous, for we hope to propose the most practical theory of neighborhood organization to secure local liberty.
One theory of local organization prominent in recent years is that advocated by Saul Alinsky and currently employed in a number of cities through his Industrial Areas Foundation—such as The Woodlawn Organization in Chicago (TWO), FIGHT in Rochester, and BUILD in Buffalo. Alinsky's goal is to develop sufficient mass power to force municipal government and established power to change their oppressive domination of the poor. According to this theory, the key to activating mass power is a wide territorial organization uniting existing local organizations and acting on issues of local grievance with achievable goals. Alinsky requires an alliance of existing neighborhood organizations before agreeing to enter upon development of a project. Only then does the professional organizer enter—and as a veritable general. For this____________________