Women and the Politics of Empowerment

By Ann Bookman; Sandra Morgen | Go to book overview

4
"It's the Whole Power of the City Against Us!": The Development of Political Consciousness in a Women's Health Care Coalition

Sandra Morgen

The literature on working-class resistance in the United States has focused primarily on the labor activism of working-class men. A focal theoretical concern of this literature had been the explanation of the relative quiescence of the American working class. In the past decade feminist scholars, as well as social and labor historians, have unearthed a rich history of working-class political activism by looking beyond white male trade unionism to explore a wider range of political activities, including women's community activism. Nevertheless, political activity outside the workplace or the electoral arena, particularly women's political activism, still remains peripheral to the historical record and to theories of working-class political life.

The tendency to privilege male political activity and labor activism together contribute to the relative neglect of women's community-based collective action. Similar assumptions mask the importance of women's and communitybased activism. Community organization is often seen primarily in terms of its local character and women's collective action is viewed as a political extension of family rather than, for example, class concerns. I argue that both of these conceptualizations are narrow and obscure the ways that the political economy of capitalism engenders and shapes resistance outside the workplace. Neither community organizing as a form of collective political action nor women's activism fit neatly into either Marxist or traditional frameworks for the analysis of political mobilization. Taking women and community organization seriously involves challenging the presumed theoretical primacy of the social relations of production (over the social relations of reproduction and consumption) and of class (over gender, race, and ethnicity).

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