Examining the work of social justice groups in Minneapolis following the 2008 recession
Since the Great Recession, even as protest and rebellion have occurred with growing frequency, many social justice organizers continue to displace as much as empower popular struggles for egalitarian and emancipatory change. In A Voice but No Power, David Forrest explains why this is the case and explores how these organizers might better reach their potential as advocates for the abolition of exploitation, discrimination, and other unjust conditions.
Through an in-depth study of post-2008 Minneapolis—a center of progressive activism—Forrest argues that social justice organizers so often fall short of their potential largely because of challenges they face in building what he calls “contentious identities,” the public identities they use to represent their constituents and counteract stigmatizing images such as the “welfare queen” or “the underclass.” In the process of assembling, publicizing, and legitimating contentious identities, he shows, these organizers encounter a series of political hazards, each of which pushes them to make choices that weaken movements for equality and freedom. Forrest demonstrates that organizers can achieve better outcomes, however, by steadily working to remake their hazardous political terrain.
The book’s conclusion reflects on the 2020 uprising that followed the police killing of George Floyd, assessing what it means for the future of social justice activism. Ultimately, Forrest’s detailed analysis contributes to leading theories about organizing and social movements and charts possibilities for further emboldening grassroots struggles for a fairer society.