Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rules for Radicals - Saul Alinsky

Rules for Radicals is a handbook for organizers; community organizers, labor organizers, civil rights organizers, all organizers. Don't dismiss this book out-of-hand because of the reputation of the author. Alinsky was intelligent, knowledgeable, ruthless, and very affective. This book has lessons for everyone.

Alinsky divides the entire world into three groups; the Haves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-a-Little, Want Mores. The purpose of his book is to teach the Have-Nots how to take power away from the Haves. Power is clearly important to Alinsky, and is key to his recipe for organizing the Have-Nots. He even lists his 13 rules of power tactics. The disturbing part of the book isn't that Alinsky considers all humans to be driven by self interests. What's disturbing is that he thinks it's just fine. Alinsky has no scruples at all, as far as you can tell from the book. Even when he's denouncing the violence that Have-Nots have engaged in to take power, it's only because he doesn't consider violence the best way to take power. For Alinsky, the ends always justify any means. He changed the standard question of conscience, "Does the ends justify the means," to "Does this particular end justify this particular means?"

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand what's going on in politics today. Alinsky's influence on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is well documented. In fact, Obama's slogan to energize his supporters, "Hope and Change," sounds very similar to Alinsky's desire to, "get people pregnant with hope and a desire for change." Very highly recommended.

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