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Politics, power, and precarity: how tenant organizations transform local political life

Authors
  • Michener, Jamila
  • SoRelle, Mallory
Type
Published Article
Journal
Interest Groups & Advocacy
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Publication Date
Feb 14, 2022
Volume
11
Issue
2
Pages
209–236
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1057/s41309-021-00148-7
PMCID: PMC8853154
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Original Article
License
Unknown

Abstract

As the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated housing precarity, tenant organizations grew in numbers and salience. But membership-based tenant organizations predated the pandemic and will persist beyond it. There are (at least) hundreds of them in localities across the country. Many aim to advance sweeping change. In doing so, they face formidable tasks: politically organizing in race-class subjugated communities, working in opposition to powerful actors (corporate landlords, property managers, etc.), and navigating complex and sometimes hostile local political institutions (city councils, mayors, rent boards, etc.). How do these organizations build power and effect change in the face of such obstacles? Drawing on a rich body of original qualitative evidence (participant observation and in-depth interviews), this paper explores the politics of local tenant organizations. We assess the origins of such organizations, how they are structured, and how they pursue political change. In doing so, we offer a rich descriptive account of phenomena that have largely escaped the attention of political scientists. We find that tenant organizations can cultivate radically different ways of conceptualizing political economy, carve out a distinctive political focus on race-class subjugated communities, and create critical opportunities for otherwise marginalized actors to develop and exercise political power.

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