CED after #OWS: from community economic development to antiauthoritarian community counter-institutions.

Author:Haber, Michael
 
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Introduction I. CED: From Grassroots Antipoverty Movement to the Non-Profit Industrial Complex A. A Brief History of CED and CED Law 1. The Birth of Contemporary CED in the 1960s 2. The Emergence of CED Law 3. Transition in the 1970s 4. "Market-Based" CED in the 1980s and 1990s 5. CED Law in the 1980s and 1990s B. CED Confronts Itself 1. CED Often Fails to Aggressively Challenge Structural Drivers of Inequality 2. Any Successful Social Change Movement Needs to Focus on Community Organizing and Mass-Movement Building Beyond the Neighborhood 3. CED Advocates' Claims to "Empower" Low-Income Communities Are Overly Vague 4. The Development Work Done By CED Is Too Small in Scale to Seriously Address Poverty C. Activists Confront "the Non-Profit Industrial Complex" 1. Non-Profits Depoliticize Social Movements 2. Non-Profits Have Come to Minimize Community Control Over Their Own Struggles 3. 501(C)(3) Tax Exemption Is Fundamentally a Mechanism to Reduce the Tax Liability of Wealthy People and Corporations, and Should Be Challenged By Social Justice Activists, Not Embraced II. A Brief History of Anti-Authoritarian Activism A. The Core Commitments of Anti-Authoritarian Activism B. A Brief History of Anti-Authoritarian Activism C. The Tools of Anti-Authoritarian Activism 1. The Tools of Autonomy: Direct Democracy, Consensus, the General Assembly, Modified Consensus, Affinity Groups, Spokes Councils, and Diversity of Tactics 2. The Tools of Horizontalism: Anti-Oppression Trainings, Identity-Based Caucuses, Progressive Stack, Horizontal Organizing III. From Anti-Authoritarian Activism to Community Counter Institutions A. The Occupy Movement Branches Out 1. Occupy in the Outer Boroughs 2. Occupy and the Foreclosure Crisis 3. Occupy Sandy B. Toward Community Counter-Institutions 1. Common Ground Collective, New Orleans, LA 2. Sylvia Rivera Law Project, New York, NY 3. Mayday Bar and Community Space, Brooklyn, NY 4. Groups Affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives, Long Beach, CA; Ferguson, MO; Miami, FL; Cleveland and Columbus, OH IV. From CED to Community Counter-Institutions A. Community Counter-Institutions Have the Potential to Fight Structural Inequality from Within Communities More Effectively than the Dominant Social Justice Non-Profit and CED Models 1. From CED to Prefigurativism a. Community Counter-Institutions Can Focus on Politicized Community Organizing and Mass Movement-Building that Challenges the Structural Drivers of Poverty and Inequality b. Community Counter-Institutions Can Create Networks Beyond Local Neighborhood Boundaries to Build a Broader Movement c. Community Counter-Institutions Can Use Legal Questions about their Own Structures as Opportunities for Organizing 2. From Hierarchy to Horizontalism 3. From Empowerment to Autonomy a. Community Counter-Institutions Depart from "Empowerment" Models to Give Direct Control to Individuals in the Community b. Community Counter-Institutions Return Community Organizing and Movement-Building to the Central Focus of the Community Group, Even While They Provide Essential Community Services B. Challenges for Community Counter-Institutions 1. Community Counter-Institutions Must Work to Get Meaningful Community Acceptance and Participation 2. Community Counter-Institutions Must Develop Tools for Accountability in a Decentralized Structure 3. Community Counter-Institutions Must Recognize How Power Continues to Persist Within Their Groups and Watch for "the Tyranny of Structurelessness" 4. Community Counter-Institutions Must Learn to do Big Things, which Sometimes May Require Money C. Transactional Social Change Lawyers and Community Counter-Institutions Conclusion Introduction

Beginning on September 17, 2011, a few hundred people gathering in a small park in lower Manhattan and calling themselves Occupy Wall Street engaged in a series of street protests and built a small, ramshackle encampment that would capture imaginations around the world, inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to take part in marches and demonstrations, build their own encampments and "occupations" of public and sometimes private property, and engage in other political acts.1 It may have been the largest, most visible U.S.-based protest movement since the 1960s. (2) Years after the encampments were forcibly shut down, the specter of the Occupy Movement and the attention it brought to the vast inequality between the economic elite and "the ninety-nine percent" have continued to haunt the U.S. political debate. (3) The Occupy Movement brought the issue of economic inequality into mainstream, twenty-first century U.S. political debate not through elected officials, policy experts, lobbyists, professional fundraisers, or non-profit advocacy groups. It did so, first, by creating a physical and cultural space where "all the people who want a better world [could] find each other" (4) and, together, "dream of some other way for human beings to get along." (5) Second, the Occupy Movement used and popularized organizational structures designed to impose no barriers to membership or participation and to encourage decision-making that is not top-down but horizontal, decentralized, and local. (6)

These two ideas at the heart of the Occupy Movement--the struggle against structural inequality and the desire for a more directly democratic process to take back control over our lives--share much in common with the ideas underlying Community Economic Development (CED). Contemporary CED first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, when activists in low-income communities fought for local residents to have a direct leadership role in efforts to revitalize those communities, and, in an era of widespread protest movements and civil unrest, private foundations and the federal government began to provide funding to support community-based non-profit organizations seeking to improve their neighborhoods through locally-designed, community-controlled projects. (7) While some of those funders may have been motivated by a desire to squelch the more radical voices in low-income communities of color, (8) the political visions of these newly government-and-foundation-funded community organizations varied. While many groups sought to avoid confrontation and simply improve community services and promote neighborhood self-sufficiency, others grew out of the civil rights, Black Power, and other community and activist movements and fought to stimulate "grassroots political action to advance a broad-based, redistributive economic agenda." (9) By the 1970s, a significant number of these organizations became Community Development Corporations (CDCs), and their projects included the development of affordable housing, locally-owned businesses, job training, and social services programs. (10)

Although there were fewer than one hundred CDCs nationally at the time, (11) transactional law projects dedicated to representing these groups started to form in 1969, and new CED law projects developed throughout the 1970s and 1980s. (12) Since the mid-1990s, dozens of law school clinical programs have started to offer CED clinics that provide free transactional legal services to low-income community organizations, massively expanding the numbers of CED legal service providers. (13) Yet the rapid growth and increasing complexity of CED have led many to conclude that it has strayed too far from its radical roots, becoming too driven by outside funding sources, too constrained by byzantine government programs, and more focused on organizational growth than on the redistributive social change that was the ultimate goal for many involved in CED when it first developed. (14)

As the Occupy Movement was forced from its encampments, activists who participated in or were influenced by the movement began to bring its radical organizational structures and political commitments into community projects done in, with, and by low-income communities and communities of color, but created largely outside of a traditional CED framework. (15) These efforts hold the potential to break down divisions between service provision and community organizing and between community-based activism and mass social mobilization. They hold the potential to produce a more confrontational, democratic, inclusive, and politically-engaged approach to building community-based social change organizations. Success, however, will not be a piece of Occu-Pie. (16)

This Article presents a history and analysis of "anti-authoritarian" activism, examines the extent to which post-Occupy anti-authoritarian efforts to build new community-based projects can avoid the missteps that CED programs have made, and describes some of the challenges that these new efforts will have to confront. It also aims to contribute to recent legal scholarship on demosprudence, "the study of the dynamic equilibrium of power between lawmaking and social movements.... [and focusing] on the legitimating effects of democratic action to produce social, legal, and cultural change." (17) Part I begins with a brief history of CED and then considers legal academic, social scientific, and activist critiques of CED and non-profit community-based organizations more generally. Part II presents an overview and history of anti-authoritarian activism and describes its influence on the Occupy Movement and, more recently, the Movement for Black Lives. Part III describes how, as anti-authoritarian activism has grown, these activists have started to consider community-based "counter-institutions" to be an important component of their activism. These new community efforts, while in line with many elements of CED, are greatly influenced by anti-authoritarian activism. Part IV describes how these new groups have the potential to overcome some of the problems that developed in the CED model, outlines some of the short- and long-term challenges that will confront these new anti-authoritarian community efforts, and describes ways that...

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