James DeFilippis is Associate Professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers. His PhD is from Rutgers is in Geography.
This chapter traces the emergent, grassroots community development movements in the 60s and how those forces became professionalized over the subsequent years. DeFilippis credits the black power and direct democracy movements’ efforts with giving rise to community development corporations (CDCs). Black power’s advocacy for community control addressed both government decentralization and uneven economic control between blacks and whites, but “black capitalism” became the primary community control device. The Saul Alinsky-inspired populist national-level organizing of the 70s drew power away from local agencies. Through the 70s and 80s, CDCs transitioned from adversarial to cooperative roles with municipal governments and banks. Nonprofits followed suit in the 80s and 90s. The upshot is that projects are “unambiguously market-based in their larger goals and programmatic details” (33) and characterized by ardently non-confrontational engagement techniques, since communities are in fact spaces for win-win negotiations, prompted by community-based asset frameworks (McKnight 1993) and social capital empowerment (Putnam 2000). Unfortunately to DeFilippis, these views have shaped a depoliticized form of what he calls “neo-liberal communitarianism” community development.