Self-taught activist Linda Stout doesn’t cast herself as a modern-day working-class heroine in Bridging the Class Divide: And Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), but she emerges as one anyway. Stout tells how she went from being the daughter of a poor tenant farmer to becoming the founder of North Carolina’s Piedmont Peace Project, a diverse grassroots social justice organization made up mostly of poor people. Her life and work provide a model for her argument that social change movements, traditionally headed by middle-class leaders, need the language and energy of working-class people to succeed.

“Making Peace” (St. Paul, Minn.: Independent Television Service), a four-part documentary airing on PBS in early February, profiles regular people pressed into action by the effects of violence on their lives. Clementine Barfield took her grief over her son’s murder and channeled it into founding a national support group, Save Our Sons and Daughters. After successfully prosecuting her abusive husband, Pam Butler now helps other women find ways out of domestic violence. Check your local PBS listings for airdates.

With clarity and wit, David Quammen prowls the globe in The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions (New York: Scribner, 1996). In the Komodo dragon and the lemurs of Madagascar, he witnesses the way biologists struggle to avert these doomed species’ almost certain extinction; in the ghosts of the Tasmanian wolf and the dodo, he offers us a look at doom itself. Quammen explains how island species, cut off from the larger ecosystem, are easily driven to extinctionÑand shows how human beings, having hacked the world into “islands” of wilderness in a sea of farmland and pavement, have triggered mass disappearances.

“You can’t have development without somebody getting hurt,” says a former World Bank executive in Catherine Caufield’s Masters of Illusion: The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations (New York: Henry Holt, 1997). But the history of the bank’s development aid offers shockingly little of the former, and plenty of the latter. A morbid fascination develops as Caufield describes how the brightest economic thinkers of the day came up with plans to help the world’s poorest countries — only to plunge them further into poverty. Rich reporting from the sites of some of the World Bank’s most outlandish projects, along with an accessible economic analysis, makes for a compelling and important read.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate