The Movement of the Unemployed Workers

The Movement of the Unemployed Workers

Piven and Cloward argue that the system is developed in a manner that the rich have power over the lower class. Therefore, rights such as that to protest are not always available for the lower class, and when they are, they tend to be shaped according to the social constructions, therefore, diminishing their extent and impact (p 3). Protests and rallies by the unemployed workers in the United States began in 1929. The movement reached its peak in 1933 but later declined due to the loss of its members. In their book, ‘Poor People’s Movement,’ Piven and Cloward offer a social account of the emergence and fall of the movement of the unemployed workers. As stated above, the capabilities and limitations of these movements (protests) were influenced by social conditions (p 36). Therefore, the march and rallies were not created by organizers and leaders but by institutional constraints.

Piven and Cloward state that the success of a protest is dependent on the period it occurs. Protests that take place during regular periods tend to be unsuccessful due to ignorance by political leaders or the implementation of punitive measures to end them. The protests by unemployed workers in 1930 occurred at a period where any large-scale change would have a significant effect on the political stability of the nation (p 28). This explains why the protests were at first very prosperous. They could not be ignored due to the uncertain state between the political leaders and their constituencies. Uncertainties between politicians and their constituencies make them doubt their support, therefore, forcing them to address the issues affecting the people. This explains why the movement of the unemployed workers during the Great Depression had a significant effect on the economy of the nation forcing the leaders to come up with concessions.

Additionally, Piven and Cloward argue that the lower class do not have a high disruptive power like those that control them. This means that the potential effect of their protests is usually not calculated, leading to terrible results majorly on the economy of the nation. Piven and Cloward also argue that when such events occur, the government cannot risk using excessive force to disperse the protestors and therefore resort to peaceful means such as offering concessions (p 29). This is why the workers that protested in the Great Depression were offered relief which included; increased pay and shorter working hours.

Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement is also another significant watershed in the history of America. This movement began in 1955 and was provoked by the arrest of an innocent African American woman who did not want to take the backseats of a bus she had boarded. Mc Adam is one of the most successful scholars known to major in social movements as well as political events in the United States. In his book about the emergence of the civil rights movement, Mc Adam argues that it is through negative inducements that the poor or the minorities are able to achieve success in their attempts to make their voices heard and acted upon by the government. These inducements include actions such as strikes and protests that are likely to grant the protestors cessations (p 736). Mc Adam states that it is only through negative inducements that the interests of the minorities are likely to be brought to light. Without negative incentives, the efforts by minorities to air out their interests are reasonable to be futile. When the issues of minorities break the limits of the electoral procedures, they have influence and are likely to impact change with regard to their interests.

In an attempt to explain the emergence of the civil rights movement from 1955 onwards, Mc Adam states that the success of this movement was as a result of the expanding political opportunities in the United States. Mc Adam argues that for a movement by the minorities to be successful, they must have some sort of leverage against the electoral process. Lack of leverage is likely to result in the failure of a movement. He also states that leverages can best be obtained when the government is expanding its political opportunities. This best explains the success of the civil rights movement midcentury. The situation in the nation at the time offered leverage to the movement. Mc Adam states, “By mid-century the growing electoral importance of the blacks nationwide, the collapse of the southern cotton economy, and the increased salience of third world countries in the United States foreign policy had combined to grant blacks a measure of political leverage…” (p 737) therefore, the emergence and success of the civil rights movement was contributed to by the increment of political opportunities in the United States that offered leverage to the minorities to fight for their interests.

Relationship between Electoral Politics and Social Movements

Through the assessment of the works of Piven and Mc Adam, one can note that electoral politics is related to the social movements that occur in the United States. Although this relationship is not clearly conceptualized in Piven and Cloward’s works, readers can note that the movements in America are actors in electoral politics. Piven states that successful social movements are most likely to be successful when they occur during uncertain periods in the political system. This shows that the nature of social movements in the United States has a significant effect on political inflation, mainly during the electoral process whereby politicians have to utilize political resources in institutional thickening or campaigns. This is the main reason why politicians are quick to offer cessations when movements occur when the relationship between politicians and their constituencies is unstable. This clearly shows that social movements in America are actors in electoral politics.

Similarly, Mc Adam’s works show the relationship between social movements such as the civil rights movements and electoral politics. The basis of this relationship in Mc Adam’s works is how leaders of social movements are able to get leverages against the government during the electoral process. For example, the civil rights movement in the United States was successful due to the government’s expansion of political opportunities. This expansion mainly offered leverage against the government in that the interests of the minorities had to be addressed so as not to affect the electoral process. This makes it evident that there is a significant relationship between electoral politics and social movements.

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