Home     Bio     Other Books     Order     Events     Reviews     Articles     Contact     Beyond Chron




Other titles by Randy Shaw:

The Activist's Handbook and Reclaiming America

Cover of The Activist's Handbook

The Activist's Handbook

"An informed analysis essential to those who care about the environment, the rights of the poor, and the plight of minorities. . . . Required reading for those who want to wage successful campaigns of social change in their communities. . . . Reveals a current of organized discontent that has evolved and become more sophisticated since the groundswell days of the 1960s."

-New Mission News

"Anybody researching or writing anything about contemporary U.S. political life should be familiar with The Activist's Handbook. Anybody attempting to influence local, state, or national political decisions needs it desperately. Politicians may read it and tremble a bit. For that matter, the rich and powerful will probably read it to see how smart some of their enemies are becoming."

-Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia

"Provides rare insight into the strategies and tactics environmentalists must use if they are to succeed in today's political climate. A must read."

-Barbara Dudley, Executive Director, Greenpeace

"This is a unique book, wise, realistic, and enormously valuable for anyone interested in social change. It is practical in its advice, and inspiring in its stories of ordinary people successfully confronting powerful interests."

-Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"The Activist's Handbook could not have come at a more opportune time. In an era when poverty is growing and national social programs are threatened, the Handbook is an invaluable tool for community groups wishing to mobilize efforts in the service of escalating human needs."

-Ben Bagdikian, author of The Media Monopoly and Double Vision

"Randy Shaw gives us a serious and respectful treatment of the strategic problems and opportunities that confront grassroots activists. This is a dimension of contemporary politics that is rarely treated, and welcome for that reason. Moreover, in developing his analysis, Shaw draws on numerous cases of local struggles to remind us of what the media has come to ignore, the persistent and insuppressible popular activism that is part of American political life."

-Frances Fox Piven, City University of New York

"The Activist's Handbook lives up to its title and will likely join the company of organizing classics. It is the kind of book that should be on every activist's reading list."

-Chris Ney, Nonviolent activist


The Activist's Handbook is a hard-hitting guide to making social change happen. Shaw, a longtime activist for urban issues, shows how positive change can still be accomplished- despite an increasingly grim political order-if activists employ the strategies set forth in this desperately needed primer. In a new preface, Shaw describes how the power of grassroots activism has won newfound respect. Mass protests against globalization and in favor of stricter gun controls have led once-invulnerable targets like the World Bank and the National Rifle Association to take citizen action more seriously.

Inspiring "fear and loathing" in politicians, building diverse coalitions, and harnessing the media, the courts, and the electoral process to one's cause are only some of the key tactics Shaw advocates and explains. Central to all social-change activism, Shaw shows, is being proactive: rather than simply reacting to right-wing proposals, activists must develop an agenda and focus their resources on achieving it.

The Activist's Handbook details the impact of specific strategies on campaigns across the country: battles over homelessness, the environment, AIDS policies, neighborhood preservation, and school reform among others. Though activist groups can have widely different aims, similar tactics are shown to produce success.

Further, the book offers a sophisticated analysis of the American power structure by someone on the front lines. In showing how people can and must make a difference at both local and national levels, this is an indispensable guide not only for activists, but for everyone interested in the future of progressive politics in America.

Short Excerpt From the Book

"The anti-incinerator coalition blasted the mayor's decision. On the eve of the city council vote, activists brought nearly 800 children-Hasidic, Latino, and African-American-to City Hall to urge the council to reject the mayor's plan to build new incinerators. Rabbi Niederman of the UJO told the crowd that 'just because we are poor does not mean our children must breathe air made poisonous by garbage-burning incinerators.' Luis Garden Acosta of El Puente focused on the pathbreaking coalition that had been formed between the often-warring groups, noting that 'in our common air we have found common ground.'"


Preface to the Second Edition



1. Don't Respond, Strategize

2. Elected Officials: Inspiring Fear and Loathing

3. Coalition Activism: Rounding Up the Unusual Suspects

4. Ballot Initiatives: The Rules of the Game

5. The Media: winning More Than Coverage

6. Lawyers: Allies or Obstacles to Social Change?

7. Direct Action: ACTing UP and Sitting In

8. Getting Started: Agenda Setting and Action Plans

9. Conclusion: Activism for the Twenty-First Century


About The Author

Randy Shaw is Director of Housing America and author of Reclaiming America (California, 1999).


#9 on Project Censored's list of Top 25 Censored News Stories of 2001, Project Censored

Related Books

Reclaiming America: Nike, Clean Air, and the New National Activism, by Randy Shaw

Civic Innovation in America, by Carmen Sirianni and Lewis Friedland

Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition, by Lucy G. Barber

Planning in the Face of Power, by John Forester

Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, by Randy Shaw


Cover of Reclaiming America

Reclaiming America

"Shaw's nuts-and-bolts accounts of the fights to shut down sweatshops and strengthen environmental laws show how grassroots battles can become nationwide campaigns. His tips on enlisting nonprofits, the media, and the Internet should help activists take their local struggles to the next level."

-Sierra Magazine

"Randy Shaw provides the definitive account of the historic national campaign to reform Nike's labor practices. Reclaiming America is a must read for everyone seeking to achieve greater social and economic fairness in the 21st Century."

-Medea Benjamin, Co-Director, Global Exchange

"Reclaiming America is an outstanding and innovative work that provides new understanding of events and patterns in American society. Shaw's activist-oriented analysis of methods of effective mobilization campaigns is unique and extremely important for scholars and practitioners alike."

-Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia

"Reclaiming America is a must read for anyone who wants to impact the national agenda. By taking a close look at recent victories against sweatshops and for clean air, Randy Shaw urges us to think big-and win through national agitation against the Great American Consumer machine."

-Jim Hightower, author of There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos

"Reclaiming America refutes the myth of campus apathy and shows how student activists play a vital role in national policy fights. Shaw's account of the successful Clean Air Act campaign led by the PIRGs and Sierra Club is enormously valuable in depicting how grassroots activism can still overcome big money in the national arena."

-Gene Karpinsky, Executive Director, U.S. PIRG

"In an era when the nonprofit sector is bearing dramatically increased reponsibility for meeting human needs, Reclaiming America is essential reading. Randy Shaw challenges community based organizations to connect their good works with national policy discussions. Shaw demonstrates how acting nationally is a necessary part of local advocacy and service work. Anyone who works in the nonprofit sector or cares about it must read this book."

-Mary Beth Pudup, University of California, Santa Cruz


Have activists taken the bumper-sticker adage "Think Globally, Act Locally" too literally? Randy Shaw argues that they have, with destructive consequences for America. Since the 1970s, activist participation in national struggles has steadily given way to a nearly exclusive focus on local issues. America's political and corporate elite has succeeded in controlling the national agenda, while their adversaries-the citizen activists and organizations who spent decades building federal programs to reflect the country's progressive ideals-increasingly bypass national fights. The result has been not only the dismantling of hard-won federal programs but also the sabotaging of local agendas and community instituions by decisions made in the national arena.

Shaw urges activists and their organizations to implement a "new national activism" by channeling energy from closely knit local groups into broader causes. Such activism enables locally oriented activists to shape America's future and work on national fights without traveling to Washington, D.C., but instead working in their own backyards. Focusing on the David and Goliath struggle between Nike and grassroots activists critical of the company's overseas labor practices, Shaw shows how national activism can rewrite the supposedly ironclad rules of the global economy by ensuring fair wages and decent living standards for workers at home and abroad. Similarly, the recent struggles for stronger clean air standards and new federal budget priorities demonstrate the potential grassroots national activism to overcome the corporate and moneyed interests that increasingly dictate America's future.

Reclaiming America's final section describes how community-based nonprofit organizations, the media, and the Internet are critical resources for building national activism. Shaw declares that community-based groups can and must combine their service work with national grassroots advocacy. He also describes how activists can use public relations to win attention in today's sprawling media environment, and he details the movement-building potential of e-mail. All these resources are essential for activists and their organizations to reclaim America's progressive ideals.




Part One: Reclaiming America outside the Electoral Process: National Anti-Sweatshop Campaigns and the Movement for a Living Wage

1. Just Don't Buy It: Challenging Nike and the Rules of the Global Economy

2. From Challenging American Sweatshops to a Movement for a Global Living Wage

Part Two: Reclaiming America through the Political Process: National Environmental Activism and the Pentagon Redirection Campaign

3. The New National Environmental Activism

4. The Pentagon: Reclaiming America by Giving Peace a Chance

Part Three: Resources for National Activism: Community-Based Organizations, the Media, and the Internet

5. Community-Based Nonprofit Organizations: From Demobilizers to Agents of Change

6. The Media: Mobilizing through the Echo Effect

7. The Internet: Mobilizing in Cyberspace




About The Author

Randy Shaw is Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, located in San Francisco, California, and author of The Activist's Handbook (California, 1996).

Related Books

Civic Innovation in America, by Carmen Sirianni and Lewis Friedland

Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, by Randy Shaw

The Activist's Handbook: A Primer, Updated Edition with a New Preface, by Randy Shaw