Blessed Are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America
by Jeffery Stout
Princeton University Press, October 2010
Over the past decade, there has been a real resurgence in grassroots activism. In Blessed Are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America, Jeffrey Stout takes readers on a journey that explores how Americans are finding ways to work together to keep government responsive to the will of the people. Fueled partly by the development of technological tools that help to facilitate social exchange and interaction, ordinary, motivated Americans are meeting in living rooms, churches, synagogues, and schools across the country to identify shared concerns, select and cultivate leaders, and take action. Stout, a professor of religion at Princeton University, presents a rich and balanced account of the successes and shortcomings of progressive grassroots organizing that could easily serve as a guide for frustrated citizens who want to do something about government gridlock—or as a rallying call to citizen activism.
Stout’s book will be especially poignant for political consultants and operatives because it showcases how citizens are operating outside traditional political processes and how these grassroots movements can help shape mainstream politics. Politicians who dismiss these activities do so at their own peril. Armed with the capacity to mount organized, effective campaigns on behalf of causes large and small, citizens are perhaps better equipped to reclaim control of the democratic process than ever before in American history. The beneath-the-surface, behind-the-scenes efforts Stout describes challenge operatives to devise strategies to address citizen concerns, no matter how small.
Mark Ruggiero is a freelance writer who resides in New York.