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The Activist's Handbook, by Randy Shaw

By an everyday book reader
March 1, 2007

The Activist's Handbook is a hard-hitting guide to making social change happen. Shaw, a longtime activist for urban issues, shows how positive change can still be accomplished - despite an increasingly grim political order - if activists employ the strategies set forth in this desperately needed primer.

This book also offers a sophisticated analysis of the American power structure by someone on the front lines. In showing how people can and must make a difference at both local and national levels, this is an indispensable guide not only for activists, but for everyone interested in the future of progressive politics in America.

Activist's Handbook - a Primer, Updated Edition
by Randy ShawBook Picture

Softcover: 326 pages
ISBN: 9780520229280, 0520229282
University of California Press
February 2001

In a new preface, Shaw describes how the power of grassroots activism has won newfound respect. Mass protests against globalization and in favor of stricter gun controls have led once-invulnerable targets like the World Bank and the National Rifle Association to take citizen action more seriously.

Inspiring "fear and loathing" in politicians, building diverse coalitions, and harnessing the media, the courts, and the electoral process to one's cause are only some of the key tactics Shaw advocates and explains. Central to all social-change activism, Shaw shows, is being proactive: rather than simply reacting to right-wing proposals, activists must develop an agenda and focus their resources on achieving it.

"Anybody researching or writing anything about contemporary U.S. political life should be familiar with The Activist's Handbook. Anybody attempting to influence local, state, or national political decisions needs it desperately. Politicians may read it and tremble a bit. For that matter, the rich and powerful will probably read it to see how smart some of their enemies are becoming." - Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia

"Provides rare insight into the strategies and tactics environmentalists must use if they are to succeed in today's political climate. A must read."-Barbara Dudley, Executive Director, Greenpeace

"This is a unique book, wise, realistic, and enormously valuable for anyone interested in social change. It is practical in its advice, and inspiring in its stories of ordinary people successfully confronting powerful interests."-Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"The Activist's Handbook could not have come at a more opportune time. In an era when poverty is growing and national social programs are threatened, the Handbook is an invaluable tool for community groups wishing to mobilize efforts in the service of escalating human needs." - Ben Bagdikian, author of The Media Monopoly and Double Vision

"Randy Shaw gives us a serious and respectful treatment of the strategic problems and opportunities that confront grassroots activists. This is a dimension of contemporary politics that is rarely treated, and welcome for that reason. Moreover, in developing his analysis, Shaw draws on numerous cases of local struggles to remind us of what the media has come to ignore, the persistent and insuppressible popular activism that is part of American political life." - Frances Fox Piven, City University of New York

"The Activist's Handbook lives up to its title and will likely join the company of organizing classics. It is the kind of book that should be on every activist's reading list." - Chris Ney, Nonviolent activist

The Activist's Handbook details the impact of specific strategies on campaigns across the country: battles over homelessness, the environment, AIDS policies, neighborhood preservation, and school reform among others. Though activist groups can have widely different aims, similar tactics are shown to produce success.

Randy Shaw is Director of Housing America and author of Reclaiming America.


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