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[Excerpt] At heart, this book is a comparison, not of twenty-five groups, but of the four major class categories I found among 362 meeting participants. Most of us frequendy guess wrong about our acquaintances' class backgrounds and current class status. In doing this analysis, I had a special lens into social change groups, watching their conversations and their dynamics'while hold­ ing members' class indicators in mind. In chapter 3 I introduce the com­ monalities within each class. I proftle the movement traditions into which the twenty-five groups fall in chapter 4. For a surprisingly large number of attitudes and behaviors, I found that class does predict how an activist may think or act, more so than race, age, or gender. The subde interplay between how things are done in each movement tradition and the effects of individual members' class predispositions paints a complex picture of why activists tend to think and act as they do.

The following five chapters each add a new layer to this understanding of intersecting class cultures and movement traditions. In interviews, activ­ists repeatedly raised the same few concerns about problems within their groups. Since one goal of this book is to help social change groups grow and thrive, each of these five chapters about my research findings focuses on one of these common organizational problems: (1) low turnout, (2) inactive members, (3) disagreements over antiracism, (4) overtalking, and (5) offensive behavior by activists. Class dynamics are woven into each of thesy troubles, and resolving them requires understanding class-culture differences. These problem-solving implications apply to other kinds of organizations as well, such as workplaces, schools, and social services agencies.


The abstract, table of contents, and first twenty-five pages are published with permission from the Cornell University Press. For ordering information, please visit the Cornell University Press.