Rules for Radicals

Rules for Radicals

A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals

Book - 1989
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First published in 1971, Rules for Radicals is Saul Alinsky's impassioned counsel to young radicals on how to effect constructive social change and know "the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one." Written in the midst of radical political developments whose direction Alinsky was one of the first to question, this volume exhibits his style at its best. Like Thomas Paine before him, Alinsky was able to combine, both in his person and his writing, the intensity of political engagement with an absolute insistence on rational political discourse and adherence to the American democratic tradition.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1989, c1971
Edition: Vintage Books ed
ISBN: 9780679721130
Characteristics: xxvi, 196 p. ; 21 cm


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Apr 08, 2019

I'm reading this alongside Lakey's How We Win. Rules For Radicals reads a bit more like a historical text nowadays. Some of the advice is dated. Alinsky foresaw this, urging readers not to take the advice as a prescription but to adapt to their own circumstances.

The anecdotes are lively and there's a lot of food for thought here. It's well worth your time if you're interested in fighting for social and economic justice. I'm looking forward to reading Graeber's history of direct action soon, which should contain more inspiring examples of status quo disruption.

Jul 12, 2017

LOL these reviews. Really looking forward to reading this now.

Jan 26, 2015

Some ideas may still be applicable today for a strong advocacy. Some approaches appear extreme!

ecrl Aug 30, 2013

This book is pure left-wing propaganda. Read it and you will understand what is wrong with this country now!

blahblahblah345662 Jul 27, 2013

A couple of people on this comment section seriously need to get a life--they make the author out as if he is dangerous, and he's not. One of Saul Alinsky's tactics to influence people in power was to go into a opera house with a group and fart loudly--this is 'dangerous', 'borderline illegal' as they claim? This was a small-time tenant organizer from Chicago who assisted poor people trying to get better living conditions. If you actually read the book, you'd see his tactics are non-violent and work within the political system--not overthrowing it (he encourages people to become 'proxy voters' of shareholders in major corporations). He wrote this back in 1971, and his advice is still practical and smart. As for the half-star critics out there, you are either young and naive, or you're older and intentionally trying to misled potential readers. Wow--you mislead a few people from reading a book on non-violently organizing poor people. Turn off the AM radio, and get a life. Please.

DebAK Jan 20, 2013

Anyone who thinks this is a good book, either did not read it, or is a left-wing radical like Saul Alinsky. It is a good read for the rest of us who believe in an organized society so we learn the dirty tricks played by "revolutionaries" like Alinsky, or the ones who follow his philosophy.

EuSei Oct 13, 2012

Alinsky's philosophy is dirty, violent, extreme Left-wing. His goal was to destroy this Republic (the Founders did NOT want a democracy) by spreading anarchy. According to Alinsky (whose admirers include Hillary Clinton and President Barack Hussein Obama), the ideal activist has no scruples: "He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is corrupt and bloody." (“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a REPUBLICAN form of Government.” US Constitution, Art. 4 Sec. 4 Par. 1”) NOTICE: Attempts to censor (“Report this”) my comments will be fiercely fought under the aegis of American Libraries’ beloved principles: Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Read, Intellectual Freedom.

Mee2 Oct 11, 2012

A radical is a radical is a radical is a radical… No way one could sugar-coat it: Alinsky was a dirty player and his techniques are borderline illegal. His goal was to cause chaos and destroy the system, replacing it by communism. His philosophy reads bad, as bad as it is when applied. The Chicago Sun Times wrote about this book: “Alinsky’s techniques and teachings influenced generations of community and labor organizers, including the church-based group hiring a young Obama to work on Chicago’s Sea Side in 1980s. […] Alinsky impressed a young [Hillary] Clinton […].” Alinsky was a Jewish Liberal at war with the established Christian white communities in America. In Rules for Radicals he teaches that the community organizer “does not have a fixed truth—truth to him is relative and changing.” His goal was to teach “how to use the opponents’ own rules against them,” and “how to create mass organizations to seize power.”

susienor Oct 09, 2012

Do not confuse this book with “Robert’s Rules of Order,” because it has NOTHING whatsoever to do with it; Saul Alinsky was an anarchist, so take your cue from this fact. He described himself as a “rebel” and a “community organizer”; Rules for Radicals was intended as a guide on how to better destroy a system he regarded as oppressive and unjust: “From the moment an organizer enters a community, he lives, dreams, eats, breathes, sleeps only one thing, and that is to build the mass power base of what he calls the army.” During the 30’s he befriended Capone and said of his enforcer, Frank Nitti, “he took me under his wing. I called him the Professor and I became his student.” He held Capitalism responsible for creating criminals; according to him they are a result of the system of private property and individual rights. Although never a member of the communist Party, Alinsky saw it as an ally and believed “communism itself is irrelevant; the issue is whether they are on our side…” In this book, Alinsky refers to the ferret out of Soviet agents in the US as “holocaust”; yet, during McCarthy’s time only a handful of commies went to jail. Alinsky proposed that radicals should be “political relativists” and take an agnostic view of means and ends. His “community organizer” is instructed to undermine the system and then see what happens; he is to spouse a single principle: to take power from the Haves and give it to the Have-nots; his goal is Power: he is to destroy the established order in the name of the “people,” leaving a few crumbs of power to the vanguard who get to feel good about themselves in the process. He created, among others, the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), and, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, regrouped progressives, communists, anarchists, liberals, black radicalists, social justice activists and democrats. Alinsky organizers infiltrated President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” program and directed federal funds to their organizations and causes. In 1969, year of the reissuing of “Reveille for Radicals,” a Wellesley undergraduate interviewed him and wrote a 92-page thesis titled “There is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model”; her name was Hillary Rodham. Saul Alinsky did not believe in moral corruption; he did not believe in morality, because it hinders one’s grab for power. Fidel Castro, one of Alinsky’s heroes, best defines his “Rules”: “Within the revolution everything is possible; outside the revolution nothing is possible.” Going back to Rousseau and Marx one realizes these “revolutionaries” have never had a plan, but a vague idea. Marx called it “the kingdom of freedom.” But Alinsky’s “Rules” organize and propose to modern radicals “the open society,” and they perfected them into the sentimental, seductive “social justice”…

Drmerkwurdigliebe Aug 22, 2012

GREAT book. Gives practical advice on organizing. The constitution gives the right to each state for a republican form of government. This means that the state will have a legislature. Our federal government has a legislature. This makes us a republic. In this way the legislature can take care of the business of state. The fact that our legislatures in both state and federal governments are elected by a broad based group of voters makes us a democracy. We are in fact a democratic republic. If you can understand this then you will be able to follow this book and use it well. Organize. Make democracy work in our republic.

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DebAK Sep 26, 2012

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