Community Organizing (Book)



This incisive book by David Walls provides a critical history and analysis of community organizing in the United States.


“This incisive book provides a critical history and analysis of community organizing, the tradition of bringing groups together to build power and forge grassroots leadership for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. Begun by Saul Alinsky in the 1930s, there are today nearly 200 institution-based groups active in 40 U.S. states, and the movement is spreading internationally.

David Walls charts how community organizing has transcended the neighborhood to seek power and influence at the metropolitan, state, and national levels, together with such allies as unions and human rights advocates. Some organizing networks have embraced these goals while others have been more cautious, and the growing profile of community organizing has even charged political debate. Importantly, Walls engages social movements literature to bring insights to our understanding of community organizing networks, their methods, allies and opponents, and to show how community organizing offers concepts and tools that are indispensable to a democratic strategy of social change.

Community Organizing will be essential reading for advanced undergraduates and graduate students of sociology, social movements and social work. It will also inform organizers and grassroots leaders, as well as the elected officials and others who contend with them.” from publisher’s website


1. Introduction: Making Change
2. Saul Alinsky and the Industrial Areas Foundation
3. An Organizing Worldview
4. Tools of the Trade
5. New Networks Innovate
6. Organizing and Electoral Politics
7. Alternative Approaches
8. What’s Next?

Reviews from publisher’s website

A superb comprehensive reading of the social, intellectual, and political history of community organizing in the U.S. The clear and engaging account of the central guiding ideas from Alinsky to Ganz, plus outlining possibilities for the future, makes for very worthwhile and enjoyable reading. It lays out basic concepts and elements of community organizing while at the same time offering real on-the-ground stories of real people who did real things in relation to creating social change.
Susan A. Ostrander, Tufts University

Community Organizing is actually three books in one: a scholarly analysis of the key components of successful movements for social change, drawing on the most important thinkers and theories from the past and present; a compendium of contemporary case studies of grassroots organizing efforts on a wide range of issues; and a “how to” manual for activists who want to apply these lessons in the real world. Walls’ book is accessible, well-written, and up-to-date. People who teach and practice community organizing will want this book on their shelves.
Peter Dreier, Occidental College

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