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Left Behind

ELIZABETH CATTE HAS PROVIDED a powerful corrective to conventional wisdom about rural America. Too many urban progressives view rural America as outside their “bubble.” This is not only condescending but wrong. Like other Americans, rural Americans have always known their own interests, and rural progressives have a strong track record of organizing to protect them. Catte reminds us that the struggles against coal companies in Harlan, Kentucky, in the 1930s, and the struggles of teachers in West Virginia more recently, are all part of a powerful collective action narrative.

Her remembrances and her hopes of a rebirth of activism against “the plundering coal bosses,” however, come up against a economic reality to which no one—from the center left to the far left—has any good answers: We know how to organize against the bosses, but what do you do when there are no more bosses?

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