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Authors

Perlman

Abstract

It would be trite to say that citizen action means different things for different people; a cliche to say that it means different things simultaneously for the same person: yet both are overwhelmingly true. Listening carefully to the members of citizen action groups -- not the organizers, staff, or wellknown leaders -- but simply the members, reveals the entire gamut of understanding and confusions; gratifications and frustrations; of hopes and fears.

The mini-portraits presented below represent a cross section, members of a single citizen action organization at a single point in time. Exploratory interviews with members of similar groups in the citizen action tradition do not seem to contradict any of the patterns that emerge from this group, although there are certainly differences in degree and emphasis. Rather than using interviews randomly across organizations, it seemed stronger to present diverse views from within the same one so as to highlight the similarities and differences that emerged. The rough ordering from enthusiasm to disenchantment should not mask the strong presence of both in each interview, and the complex interaction between individual needs, personalities and political awareness.

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