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Front Porch Politics: The Forgotten Heyday…
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Front Porch Politics: The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the…

by Michael Stewart Foley

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809054825, Hardcover)

An on-the-ground history of ordinary Americans who took to the streets when political issues became personal

The 1960s are widely seen as the high tide of political activism in the United States. According to this view, Americans retreated to the private realm after the tumult of the civil rights and antiwar movements, and on the rare occasions when they did take action, it was mainly to express their wish to be left alone by government—as recommended by Ronald Reagan and the ascendant New Right.

In fact, as Michael Stewart Foley shows in Front Porch Politics, this understanding of post-1960s politics needs drastic revision. On the community level, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of innovative and impassioned political activity. In Southern California and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, tenants challenged landlords with sit-ins and referenda; in the upper Midwest, farmers vandalized power lines and mobilized tractors to protect their land; and in the deindustrializing cities of the Rust Belt, laid-off workers boldly claimed the right to own their idled factories. Meanwhile, activists fought to defend the traditional family or to expand the rights of women, while entire towns organized to protest the toxic sludge in their basements. Recalling Love Canal, the tax revolt in California, ACT UP, and other crusades famous or forgotten, Foley shows how Americans were propelled by personal experiences and emotions into the public sphere. Disregarding conventional ideas of left and right, they turned to political action when they perceived, from their actual or figurative front porches, an immediate threat to their families, homes, or dreams.

Front Porch Politics is a vivid and authoritative people’s history of a time when Americans followed their outrage into the streets. Addressing today’s readers, it is also a field guide for effective activism in an era when mass movements may seem impractical or even passé. The distinctively visceral, local, and highly personal politics that Americans practiced in the 1970s and 1980s provide a model of citizenship worth emulating if we are to renew our democracy.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 02 Dec 2013 04:06:01 -0500)

"An on-the-ground history of ordinary Americans who took to the streets when political issues became personal. It is widely believed that Americans of the 1970s and '80s were exhausted by the upheavals of the '60s and eager to retreat to the private realm. When they did take action, it was mainly to express their disillusionment with government by supporting the right. In fact, as Michael Stewart Foley shows, neither of these assumptions is correct. On the community level, the 1970s and '80s saw vibrantnew forms of political activity emerge. Tenants challenged landlords, farmers practiced civil disobedience to protect their land, and laid-off workers asserted a right to own their idled factories. Activists fought to defend the traditional family or to expand the rights of women, while entire towns organized to protest the toxic sludge in their basements. In all these arenas, Americans were propelled by their own experiences into the public sphere. Disregarding conventional ideas of "left" and "right," they turned to political action when they perceived an immediate threat to the safety and security of their families, homes, or dreams. Front Porch Politics is a people's history told through on-the-ground experiences. Recalling crusades famous and forgotten, Foley shows how Americans followed their outrage into the streets. Their distinctive style of visceral, local, and highly personal activism remains a vital resource for the renewal of American democracy"--… (more)

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