How Associations Can Fight for the Larger Civic Good

John S. Ahlquist, University of California, San Diego, Margaret Levi, Stanford University

Citizen groups and unions speak for their members – but can they also fight for the larger public good? Yes they can, explains a provocative new book.

Ahlquist and Levi's new book is In the Interest of Others: Leaders, Governance, and Political Activism in Membership Organizations (Princeton University Press, 2013).

In a recent SSN brief, "Can U.S. Unions Mobilize Workers in New Ways," Ahlquist and Levi draw from their book's insights from labor union struggles in Australia and the United States to offer new ideas about how U.S. labor activists can move beyond servicing existing workplace contracts to mobilize American workers on behalf of broad social-justice goals. This brief was part of a wide-ranging September 2013 SSN spotlight on "The Challenging Future of the U.S. Labor Movement."

A leading political scientist and former president of the American Political Science Association, Margaret Levi has done pathbreaking empirical research and theorizing about citizen faith in government and compliance with public duties ranging from paying taxes to serving in the military. She also works on issues pertinent to labor movements and global justice campaigns, and has engaged with organizations and civic efforts ranging from the World Bank to the World Justice Project and the Just Supply Chains network.

In his wide-ranging research and teaching, John Ahlquist focuses on how societies balance economic growth with fairness and equity. He has also done extensive research on U.S. labor policies and their impact on the behavior and development of labor unions. Ahlquist's first SSN brief reported innovative research findings on the roots of political attacks on public sector unions in the various U.S. states. During the 2012 battles over recalling Wisconsin's GOP governor, Ahlquist did research on patterns of out-of-state financial donations to the political combatants. His findings were featured in a June 4, 2012 media report.

November 2013