Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jane and Saul

"At about the same time, Jane [Jacobs] had become intrigued by the writings of Saul Alinsky, the champion of the poor and the powerless in the Chicago slum that was the basis for Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle."

Anthony Flint,Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City.

This intersection of ideas and biographies surprised me. Maybe it shouldn't have, but I never put Alinsky and Jacobs together. Now that I've gotten to know them a bit better, they were both homegrown, non-ideological American radicals who thumbed their noses at authority and stoked local democratic action. They lived and worked in cities that were undergoing massive changes.

"Jacobs admired Alinsky's tactical view that community action emerges from the bottom up."

I would call this more a strategic view of social change, but did they did share a tactical appreciation for organizing moves that got under the skin of opponents and displayed a distinctive flamboyance.

Jane Jacobs became a champion for a anti-highway and urban renewal fights around the country Alinsky-based organizing became one of the tools in these fights that sometimes produced cross-class and cross-race alliances. But Jacobs was not about building permanent "people's organizations" as was Alinsky.

I wonder what other connections existed between these two?

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