365 Books Worth Reading: #1 Alinsky’s _Rules for Radicals_

Sharon July 29th, 2009

I’ve got a lot of books I’d love to review at length, but somehow there’s always something more urgent to do.  So I’ve decided that I’m going to try and post regular (I doubt it will be every day…no, I’m sure it won’t be every day) short book reviews of a paragraph or so until I’ve done 365 of them.  I know it’ll probably take me a lot longer than a year, but at least it is a way to get conversations going about my favorite books without having to take a month to write about them. 

 I’m not promising that every single one will be on a relevant topic to the main themes of this blog - in fact, again, I promise they won’t be.  Everyone needs good escapist or imaginative literature sometimes, or simply to learn everything they can about something interesting, even if it has no direct application.  Besides, it is very rare that I find I read something truly great and never use it again - it always shows up somewhere in my thinking.

Ok, the honor of being the very first book worth reading goes to Saul Alinsky’s superb book _Rules for Radicals_ - I picked it up at my school library when I was 14, and it was perhaps the first most important book I’ve ever read.  I try and go back and look at it once a decade, at a minimum, and it keeps on being relevant.  Alinsky gave us a model for how to do what needs doing long ago, when he wrote,

“The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals was written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

What more urgently needed knowledge is there than that? 


7 Responses to “365 Books Worth Reading: #1 Alinsky’s _Rules for Radicals_”

  1. Karinon 29 Jul 2009 at 4:17 pm

    In 1986 I was canvassing for The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy ( Sane) in Cambrdge MA. I was just at the beginning of an awakening from naive highschooler to political activist. This book was part of the evolution of that time in my life. It was given to me by my canvass director Steve.

    Thankyou for reminding me about this book. I must go find my copy and read it again.

  2. Edon 29 Jul 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I’m sorry that I read that book in college. I’m even sorrier that you mentioned it.

  3. Dianeon 29 Jul 2009 at 5:37 pm

    That’s not enough information for me to risk my (very paranoid here) library record. I made my daughter pay cash for Hoffman’s F*** the System. What’s in it?

  4. LynnSon 29 Jul 2009 at 6:27 pm

    This book is “a model for how to do what needs doing long ago”? A book about a socialist revolution? And it’s long overdue?

    Maybe another read is in order. Alinsky (and Obama) are all about power. It’s not about the “have nots”….the poor, illiterate, welfare class are meant to be used again, as a tool — they are the means to achieve the goal. HA! The “have nots” will remain as such, enslaved in a different but all-encompassing programmed life. You missed the point!

  5. Marieon 30 Jul 2009 at 12:09 am

    Respectfully disagree with you here. You say you want a revolution… Well, it’s here. And this socialist Utopia will dispense MORE poverty and injustice, not less. Socialism will be no friend to the independent small farmer, nor the small dairy, the backyard gardener, the independent nursery, the independent ANYTHING.

  6. Sharonon 30 Jul 2009 at 7:44 am

    I’m not a socialist - what I find value in Alinsky is the model of community organizing and responding to power. But Alinsky’s techniques work beautifully in a distributist model as well.

    Frankly, I think that “socialism” is a silly bogeyman in the US, and gets bandied about in kind of irrelevant ways to just mean “oh, bad.”


  7. jannineon 30 Jul 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I haven’t read Alinsky for many years but applaud your desire to give him another look. I am amazed at the reactions he still engenders even this many years later!

    I think it is good to re-read him along with others who may take a different approach. What seems to be emerging during these tough times is that instituting change is very difficult indeed - and this despite the obvious “handwriting on the wall” with regard to climate change, crumbling health care infrastructure, general economic gloom etc.

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