Ben Manski

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Benjamin Robert Manski
Ben Manski Profile.png
Born (1974-07-16) July 16, 1974 (age 47)
OccupationSociologist, Lawyer, organizer, speaker
Spouse(s)Sarah Grace Manski

Ben Manski (born July 16, 1974) is an American sociologist, lawyer, and democracy advocate. He is Assistant Professor of Sociology at George Mason University after earning his PhD in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.[1][2][3] Manski's work focuses primarily on social movements, democratization, and constitutionalism. He is the founder of the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution, and co-founder of Move to Amend, the 180/Movement for Democracy and Education, and United for Peace and Justice. In 2011, he chaired the first biennial "Democracy Convention."[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Manski was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 16, 1974, to economist Charles Manski and educator Kate Manski. When he was three years old, his family moved to Jerusalem, Israel, where he and his sister spent their early childhood years. In 1982, his parents returned to the United States, moving to Madison, Wisconsin.

Manski was influenced by the lifelong civil rights activism of his maternal grandmother and by the participation of his father's family in the Jewish resistance movements of the 1930s and 1940s.[5]

Manski received a B.A. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1999; a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School in 2005; an M.A. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016; and is currently seeking a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.[6][7]

Sugihara Memorial[edit]

In the summer of 2011, Manski was invited to Suruga, Japan, in place of his recently deceased grandfather, Samuil Manski, for a celebration of the life of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania responsible for saving thousands of Jewish refugees from Nazi cruelty through the granting of visas allowing for their escape. Manski's grandfather was one of the refugees saved by the grace of Sugihara and later helped to raise awareness of Sugihara's deeds.[8]


Manski earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2005. He would go on to lead and/or take part in various social movements and electoral campaigns of the late aughts and early 2010's. Manski returned to the academic field to earn a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2020. His doctoral work concerned two major themes: first, "democracy as a movement and popular constitutionalism as an articulation of democracy," and second, "the cognition, knowledge, and strategies of movement activists."[9] These core tenets of democratization and the praxiological analysis of social movement actors pervade all of Manski's scholarship.

Academic career[edit]

Social movement studies[edit]

Manski co-authored "The Millennial Turns and the New Period: An Introduction" (2020) for Socialism and Democracy with Suren Moodliar and Hillary Lazar. Manski et al. argue that social movements of the turn of the 21st century (including the decades preceding and after) saw three core "turns": anarchist, democratic, and global. The anarchist turn concerns diffusion strategies and horizontal organizing methods. The democratic turn concerns the framing of all issues around democratic principles like collective decision making, harm reduction, and accountability of those in power to their labor force or voting blocs. The global turn concerns a trans-national and globalized view of social issues, as well as holistic, multi-issue campaigns led by coalitions of single-issue social movement organizations.[10]

That same year, Manski conducted an interview with Bill Fletcher Jr., a leading labor organizer and intellectual. In the interview, Fletcher Jr. discussed the rise of globalization leading up to the 1999 Seattle WTO protests and the transformations within leftist movements to focus on global issues and raising global working class consciousness. Fletcher Jr. also discussed his efforts to build what he calls the "Black left" from within the Black Radical Congress.[11] Manski also conducted an extended interview with Norman Stockwell, a veteran journalist and movement media producer. Stockwell reflected on his role in the creation of the "media democracy movement" and how new media tools were adopted by the radical democratic movements of the 1990s and early 2000s.[12]

In 2018 Manski wrote for Jacobin magazine and anticipated "great losses" for union power in traditionally unionized states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana, due to the trajectory of the 2011 Wisconsin protests. He suggests examining the successes and failures of the "Wisconsin Uprising" in order to shore up labor power in the future.[13]

Popular constitutionalism[edit]

In a 2017 chapter for Human Rights Of, By, and For the People: How to Critique and Change the U.S. Constitution, Manski explored the practical and theoretical aspects of rewriting the Constitution of the United States. He discusses the recent "clamor for constitutional change" after the Citizens United v. FEC case in 2009, in which millions of Americans across hundreds of petitions express desire for a reformed or wholly re-written constitution. After breaking down the various legal and practical components of the current U.S. constitution and how those sections could be revised, Manski concludes by asserting that rewriting the constitution would not only shift the legal framework of the United States, but also the social framework.[14]

In 2009 Manski argued for what he called "new Federalism" in which federal obstacles to "local innovation" would be removed, cooperatives and democratic institutions would be strengthened through investment, and the American military would be reduced to a defensive role by focusing on the National Guard (United States).[15] This was in concert with an article Manski wrote for Liberty Tree in 2006 in opposition to the Iraq War. In that article, Manski argues in favor for the Ludlow Amendment, which would "increase democratic control" over the military by allowing military personnel to have expanded rights to organize and engage in public debates about war.[16]

Corporations and corporate harms[edit]

In 2020 Manski co-authored a report on the rate of pollution across various industries. Manski argues based on the data that pollution is disproportionately distributed to a handful of mega-polluting facilities in each industry studied, constituting an overall pattern of high-status, high-polluting firms within any given industry.[17] In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Manski wrote a treatise on the rise of corporatization in the United States. He explains each of the ways that corporations have embedded themselves into social services, from disaster preparedness to prisons and agriculture.[18] Manski foretells the increasing corporatization of public services should progressive activists not commit to democratization campaigns over bureaucratization.

In the Journal of World-Systems Research's 2019 symposium on corporate power, Manski co-authored an article in which he argues that globalization of the past three decades has entrenched corporate power into local communities, stripping these places of democracy and resources. By protesting and campaigning against corporate control of local lands and resources, localized communities can become part of a broader global struggle against corporate control and anti-democratic oligarchs.[19] In 2004, then writing for Liberty Tree, Manski likened modern global corporate power to that of Roman imperialism, arguing that corporate power has become governmental power as economic interest groups have woven themselves into American politics.[20] Only by campaigning for democratic principles in all aspects of social and economic life can the power of the corporation be overcome, argues Manski.

Next Systems Studies[edit]

Although this field of study remains in its preliminary stages, "Next Systems Studies" aims to define and shape possible post-capitalist futures by analyzing and incorporating cooperative models, transitions studies, new technologies, and praxiological theory. An early contribution to this literature was penned by Manski and his partner, Sarah Manski, in 2018: the pair analyze Blockchain technology as a possible "end to contemporary sovereign order." Manski concludes that although Blockchain tech has "interpretive flexibility," it will inevitably come under the same structural forces imposed by current models of sovereignty, capitalism, and internet control.[21] Blockchain may not be an emancipatory force, Manski argues, but campaigns for increased democracy online may.

Movement building and activism[edit]

Democracy teach-ins and 180/MDE[edit]

In 1995, Manski began coordinating a series of "Democracy Teach-Ins" on college campuses around the nation. They were aimed at educating students and communities on the issues of corporate rule and the corporatization of higher education. He continued his role as coordinator, eventually co-founding 180/Movement for Democracy and Education, or MDE, as a means to expand the platform of the teach-ins.[22] Through MDE, Manski organized teach-ins leading up to the 1999 Seattle WTO protests


Through 180-MDE, Manski helped to organize a national mobilization of students to converge on the meeting of the WTO in Seattle, November 1999. Along with thousands of other prominent pro-labor organizations, including the AFL–CIO, the famous WTO protest was a major reversal of the consolidation of corporate power. Seattle was an important event for American pro-labor movements in that the police "lost the battle for legitimacy to the moral force of non-violence," according to Manski. Losing control of the streets and thereby the protest, it was a clear victory for the protesters.

However, this would not be the case in the 2003 protest of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), who were convening in Miami for trade negotiations. Miami saw scores of protesters numbering over 22,000 in opposition to the FTAA. "The message of the demonstration was clear," said Manski. "No to closed door trade meetings. No to corporate-made law. No to the race to the bottom. In sum: No to the FTAA." The march was to begin in end in Miami's Bayfront Park. As the march completed its route, many demonstrators departed while others stayed for a free concert in the park. Without warning, the police converged on the remaining protesters. Rubber bullets and pepper spray pellets were fired at the fleeing crowd, in addition to tear gas. In what came to be known as the Miami model, the Miami police pursued the fleeing demonstrators, dividing them street by street employing brutality resulting in 125 reported injuries and 250 arrests made. "If there is a lesson from Miami, it is this: Retreat usually leads to defeat," notes Manski.[23]

Green Party[edit]

Manski joined the Wisconsin Green Party in 1990. In 1996 he led the effort to place Ralph Nader on the Wisconsin ballot. In 1999, he became a member of the staff of Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign, serving as Midwest field director in that election. In 2001, he was hired as the first interim national director of the Campus Greens, stepping down in order to take office as co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, a position to which he was reelected in 2003, and from which he stepped down in 2004.[24] He was the Wisconsin representative on the Green Party Diversity Committee,[25][26] and is a former chair of the Green Coordinated Campaign Committee and Presidential Campaign Support Committee.[27] Manski was the campaign manager of Jill Stein, candidate for President of the United States in 2012.[28]


Dane County Board of Supervisors[edit]

Manski ran for a seat on the Dane County Board of Supervisors in 1996, losing by five votes with 49.8% of the vote.[29]

Wisconsin State Assembly[edit]

In 2010, Manski was a Green Party candidate for a Wisconsin State Assembly seat vacated by long-time Madison legislator Spencer Black. He lost to Brett Hulsey of Madison, taking 31% of the vote and finishing ahead of the Republican and Constitution Party candidates.[30] This was the strongest performance of any third party candidate in Wisconsin since 1944.[31]

Liberty Tree[edit]

The summer of 2004 saw the creation of the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution. Founded by Manski during his last year of law school, this non-governmental organization was formed as a means to reinforce pro-democracy campaigns across the United States. Through Liberty Tree, Manski has helped solidify networks of people whose aim is to have a more participatory system of government. "I had come to recognize that while we were winning any number of significant victories, we were losing the larger struggle for democratic self-governance."[22]

  • No Stolen Elections! was the first project by Liberty Tree beginning in 2004. Its focus was to protect voting rights and to protest against election manipulation during the 2004 presidential elections. Multiple protests were organized following election day resulting in a successful seeding of voting rights groups across the United States. This campaign continues on today as No More Stolen Elections! with a strong commitment to upholding election transparency.[32]
  • Bring the Guard Home! It's the Law. was a national movement prepared by Liberty Tree to end the deployment of the National Guard in Iraq. The campaign spread to over 20 states whose aim was to work with state legislators to pass laws as a means to prevent the deployment of the National Guard in future conflicts.[33]
  • Democratizing Education Program is a network of student associations, labor unions, faculty organizations, as well as grassroots student, parent and community groups working to unite against the corporatization of the education system and to promote democracy within school, colleges and universities.[34]
  • Move to Amend was created by Liberty Tree, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, Alliance for Democracy and the Center for Media and Democracy and is now a national movement working towards overcoming corporate power in the government by calling for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood. The formation of this non-partisan group was in response to the controversial Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Move to Amend believes that the ruling by the Court is a disruption in democracy by granting a disproportionate amount of power to the nation's most wealthy.
  • Wisconsin Wave was created in January 2011 as a means to fight corporate power in politics. Liberty Tree began the campaign through the distribution of the "Wisconsin Wave of Resistance". This document outlined the movement's progressive agenda to put an end to corporate attacks on labor unions. The Wisconsin Wave was largely created in solidarity with the 2011 Wisconsin protests, and moved on to organize annual conventions to protest the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce as well as a series of workshops including a "People's Assembly" designed to bring together organizers from around the state.[35]


  1. ^ "Ben Manski. Democracy as a movement". Ben Manski. Democracy as a movement. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  2. ^ "Sociology and Anthropology | Faculty and Staff: Ben Manski".
  3. ^ "Sociology and Anthropology | Faculty and Staff".
  4. ^ "Megaphone: An Interview with Ben Manski of the Liberty Tree Foundation". Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  5. ^ "Jewish Currents". Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  6. ^ "Ben Manski. Democracy as a movement". Ben Manski. Democracy as a movement. Retrieved Oct 17, 2019.
  7. ^ "Biography". Manski for Wisconsin. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  8. ^ "The Capital City Hues/Sept. 8, 2011/The Legacy of Chiune Sugihara2". Retrieved Oct 17, 2019.
  9. ^ "Research Statement". Research Statement. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  10. ^ Manski, Ben; Lazar, Hillary; Moodliar, Suren (2020-01-02). "The Millennial Turns and the New Period: An Introduction". Socialism and Democracy. 34 (1): 1–50. doi:10.1080/08854300.2019.1841711. ISSN 0885-4300.
  11. ^ Fletcher, Bill; Manski, Ben (2020-01-02). "Reflections on Organized Labor, the Black Radical Congress, and Building a United Front". Socialism and Democracy. 34 (1): 242–255. doi:10.1080/08854300.2019.1840006. ISSN 0885-4300. S2CID 229492060.
  12. ^ Stockwell, Norman; Manski, Ben (2020-01-02). "Indymedia and Media Activism at the Turn of the Millennium". Socialism and Democracy. 34 (1): 216–227. doi:10.1080/08854300.2019.1841523. ISSN 0885-4300. S2CID 229486337.
  13. ^ "It Started in Wisconsin". Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  14. ^ Manski, Ben. "Beginning the World Again: Social movements and the challenge of constitutional change". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ Dolan, Karen; Manski, Ben. "Unleash Democracy: Policies for a New Federalism". Mandate for Change, Edited by Chester Hartman.
  16. ^ Manski, Ben. "Liberty's Roots: The Struggle to Put Ballots Before Bullets". Liberty Tree Journal.
  17. ^ Collins, M; Pulver, S; Hill, D; Manski, B (2020-05-18). "Characterizing disproportionality in facility-level toxic releases in US manufacturing, 1998–2012". Environmental Research Letters. 15 (6): 064002. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ab7393. ISSN 1748-9326.
  18. ^ Manski, Ben. "Corporatization: An Internal Clash of Civilizations". 2005/2006 Yearbook on Public Services.
  19. ^ Manski, Ben; Smith, Jackie (2019). "Introduction: The Dynamics and Terrains of Local Democracy and Corporate Power in the 21st Century". Journal of World-Systems Research. 25 (1): 6–14. doi:10.5195/jwsr.2019.919. ISSN 1076-156X.
  20. ^ Manski, Ben. "The Essence of the Corporation". Liberty Tree Journal.
  21. ^ Manski, Sarah; Manski, Ben (2018). "No Gods, No Masters, No Coders? The Future of Sovereignty in a Blockchain World". Law and Critique. 29 (2): 151–162. doi:10.1007/s10978-018-9225-z. ISSN 0957-8536. S2CID 150181722.
  22. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-26. Retrieved 2012-11-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "[Corporations] The Massacre in Miami". Retrieved Oct 17, 2019.
  24. ^ Zielinski, Graeme (Fall 2004). "Green and Growing?" (PDF). On Wisconsin. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28.
  25. ^ "Green Party Committees: Diversity". Green Party of the United States. Archived from the original on June 2, 2006. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  26. ^ Zaleski, Rob (April 9, 2004). "Green Leader Has Doubts About Kerry". The Capital Times. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011.
  27. ^ "Ben Manski for State Assembly". Green Party of the United States. Archived from the original on September 18, 2011. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  28. ^ Winger, Richard. "Ben Manski Will be Campaign Manager for Jill Stein Presidential Run". Ballot Access News. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  29. ^ "No Change in Two Recounts". The Capital Times. March 29, 1996.
  30. ^ "Fall 2010 general election results". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. November 2, 2010.
  31. ^ Winger, Richard (January 17, 2011). "Wisconsin Green 2010 Legislative Candidate Set Record Going Back 65 Years". Ballot Access News. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2013-06-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^[bare URL PDF]
  34. ^ "Democratizing Education". Liberty Tree Foundation. Retrieved Oct 17, 2019.
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2013-06-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)