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Bargaining for Brooklyn

Community Organizations in the Entrepreneurial City

When middle-class residents fled American cities in the 1960s and 1970s, government services and investment capital left too. Countless urban neighborhoods thus entered phases of precipitous decline, prompting the creation of community-based organizations that sought to bring direly needed resources back to the inner city. Today there are tens of thousands of these CBOs—private nonprofit groups that work diligently within tight budgets to give assistance and opportunity to our most vulnerable citizens by providing services such as housing, child care, and legal aid.

Through ethnographic fieldwork at eight CBOs in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick, Nicole P. Marwell discovered that the complex and contentious relationships these groups form with larger economic and political institutions outside the neighborhood have a huge and unexamined impact on the lives of the poor. Most studies of urban poverty focus on individuals or families, but Bargaining for Brooklyn widens the lens, examining the organizations whose actions and decisions collectively drive urban life.

288 pages | 8 halftones, 3 maps, 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2007

Political Science: Race and Politics, Urban Politics

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations, Social Change, Social Movements, Political Sociology, Urban and Rural Sociology


"A significant addition to the literature on urban policy and community development."


"Marwell’s ethnography is truly exceptional in illustrating the byzantine institutional setting that must be navigatied before CBOs can connect neighborhood residents to the resources they need. . . . Bargaining for Brooklyn has much to offer, not just to ethnographers of urban poverty and community studies, but to urban, political, and organizations sociology broadly. The writing is accessible, and the cases are compelling. . . . Not only will the book be widely read and assigned, it should be a central text on urban poverty, interscalar institutional analysis, and CBOs. More generally, Marwell’s voice is a welcome addition to an already illustrious cast of contemporary urban ethnographers."

Michael McQuarrie | American Journal of Sociology

"Marwell provides an excellent community history of Puerto Ricans and Latinos in Brooklyn. . . . [The book] is richly detailed and likely to serve as a wonderful resource for future research."

J.R. Sanchez | Centro

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
1. Formal Organizations and the Problem of Social Order in the City
2. A Place to Live
3. A Voice in Politics 
4. A Path to Work 
5. Organizations and Participation 
6. Conclusion 
Appendix. Notes on Research Design and Method 
Works Cited 

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