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Movements against Economic Inequality under Twenty-First Century Capitalism

Questions: Now that inequality in the U.S. has returned to levels not seen since The Gilded Age and the country has experienced another financial crisis, why have there not been equivalent reforms? What are the issues facing social movements against inequality in the U.S.?

The Point: This essay reveals that while there is no shortage of policy reform ideas for addressing inequality, there is not yet a strong enough social movement against economic inequality to elicit their implementation. It assesses why movements against economic inequality have not been more successful through twenty in-depth interviews. Participants represent a broad range of the actors involved in movements against economic inequality, including organizers in labor unions, worker centers, nonprofits, socialist organizations, tenants’ organizations, anarchist organizations, and Occupy, as well as members of the Democratic Party. This comparison shows that movements against economic inequality today face three main issues: the ability to remain independent from funders with opposing interests, the willingness collaborate with other organizations, and the means to educate and empower workers who are struggling to survive in a drastically unequal society. Movements against economic inequality must resolve these common problems in order to gain the political power necessary to bring about their desired policy reforms.

Quote: "The participant working with restaurant workers in Chicago agreed that it is better to not have to rely on grant funding where possible since the reason many donors have been able to amass a great amount of money in the first place is by doing the very things worker justice organizations are fighting against. He noted that in the case of relying more on funding as an organization grows, 'the more you try to change the status quo, sometimes you end up becoming it.'"

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