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Hardcover | $14.95 Trade | £10.95 | ISBN: 9780262013604 | 144 pp. | 4.5 x 7 in | August 2009

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After America's Midlife Crisis


For several decades Michael Gecan has worked with groups that serve their communities when conservative get-tough rhetoric and endless liberal programs do not cut it.

A Chicagoan by birth and a survivor of the 1958 Our Lady of the Angels School fire that took the lives of 92 children and three nuns, Gecan brings his deep knowledge of that city's blighted neighborhoods, bloated bureaucracy, and venal political machine to bear on a thoroughgoing and nationwide critique. He paints a vivid picture of civic, political, and religious institutions in decline, from suburban budget crises to failing public schools: a national mid-life crisis.

Gecan reveals an urban landscape in which careerism, nepotism, and greed are the principal movers in policy, while the institutions that preserve and advance communities—schools, churches, affordable housing, recreational opportunities—have fallen prey to the indifference of pols and developers and the shortsightedness of technocrats.

But Gecan would not be a lifelong organizer if he did not see the possibility for change. With relational work—the heart of organizing—at the center of new efforts, he shows how local experiments can create vibrant institutions that truly serve their constituents. Most importantly, he calls on national and local leadership to shed old ways of thinking and face new realities.

About the Author

Michael Gecan, a veteran organizer who trained with Saul Alinsky, is an executive member of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). He has worked in both Chicago and New York City and is the author of Going Public: An Organizer's Guide to Citizen Action.


"In this practical little book, he [Gecan] offers observations and suggestions for pulling America's cities and suburbs back from the brink of decrepitude and dysfunction.", Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times