chapter  8
24 Pages

Shifting Standpoints on Politics and the State

Key to the feminist project of the last thirty years is a reconceptualization of the term “politics.”1 Feminist research demonstrates the extent to which women’s militancy has been masked by the traditional categories used to assess political action.2 Furthermore, because most discussions of politics assume individual self-interest as a motivation for participation, contempo­ rary political analyses rarely incorporate actions that derive from a concern for the collective good or commonwealth. In addition, when we adopt a def­ inition of politics that is limited to voting behavior, membership in political clubs or parties, and running for public office, we obscure the political prac­ tice of community workers, the grassroots warriors. Since much of the com­ munity workers’ activity occurred outside the formal political establishment, traditional measures underestimate the extent of their political participation. Many of the resident community workers I interviewed rarely engaged in electoral politics, especially through established political parties, although many participated in voter-registration drives. Few expressed an interest in running for public office. Rather, they challenged the authority of city and state agencies, landowners and developers, and police and public school offi­ cials. They maintained a close watch over the actions of elected officials to ensure that the interests of their communities were served. Furthermore, they were vocal participants in community-based protests against racism and other forms of discrimination in their neighborhoods.