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Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky: His Life and Legacy Paperback – March 31, 1992

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Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky: His Life and Legacy + Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals + Rules for Radicals Defeated: A Practical Guide for Defeating Obama/Alinsky Tactics
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chicago-born social activist Saul Alinsky's sharp criticism of what he saw as shortcomings in the civil rights movement and the federal war on poverty make this book timely. Photos.

Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is an important account of a "complex and idiosyncratic" urban populist who insisted that power was the keystone of social change. Horwitt expands on the work done by P. David Finks in The Radical Vision of Saul Alinsky ( LJ 7/84) to produce a comprehensive appraisal of Alinksy's "colorful confrontational tactics" as a community organizer and his influence on a "succeeding generation of social activists." Streetwise yet reflective, Alinsky was a true believer in the possibility of American democracy as a means of attaining social justice "for ordinary people." Horwitt has done an especially good job discussing Alinsky's youth and personal life. An insightful and well-written study, recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.
- John R. Sillito, Weber State Coll. Lib., Ogden, Ut.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 618 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067973418X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679734185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This fat biography of an American icon of greatness/evil (take your pick) has something to annoy everyone. Admirers will cringe to learn that their favorite Alinsky stories were mere bluster and self-promotion. Critics will droop when they learn that his references to Lucifer and Marx were deliberate provocative twaddle, not his true beliefs. Those who fell for any of that, meet the real Alinsky in the meticulous research of author Sanford Horwitz. Alinsky was street smart and ivory tower smart - sociology degree, insider studying the Al Capone mob for his PhD in criminology, criminologist for the Illinois state prison system, labor organizer for the CIO who applied union methods to communities, grant-seeker who pried tons of money from Chicago's wealtiest elite (the Marshall Field fortune), and practical idealist raging for justice for underdogs of any flavor. His books Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals don't tell you HOW he organized communties, but this superb biography does. Critics take heed: you don't know half how dangerous he really was. Admirers, this undeservedly obscure bio will geld your high-horse. Put a little reality into your Alinsky - read this book!
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Ronald E. Stackler on September 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is required reading for anyone who is interested in understanding what a "community organizer" is and what he does in Chicago. Barack Obama worked for organizations founded by Saul Alinsky and run by his proteges.
Obama never gives details of his community organizing, but this book tells what he would have been doing for his several years in the 1980's in Chicago: teaching people how to boycott, protest and threaten the economically and politically powerful in order to get what they want.
It is a unique training, to say the least, for a Presidential candidate.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hike Mogan on January 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
I approached this book having read Rules for Radicals two or three times over the past 15 years. What I knew of Alinsky, I knew from that book or from the fear and loathing he inspires to this day among reactionary corners of society. Neither of these sources are very reliable when it comes to finding out more about the nuts and bolts of community organizing through the depression on into the 1960s.

For one thing, Alinsky loved to talk himself up as a larger than life character. It's what made him so good at what he did. It's why people across the nation not only turned to him for help, but they organized themselves in order to bring him to California, or Rochester, NY or Kansas City. But as a primary source on himself, Alinsky's books require getting through some of the self promotion.

As for his critics, all I would say is this: to this day some claim Alinsky's tactics and his goals (fighting slumlords, free lunches for children, black people voting and being hired for good jobs proportionately, general self-empowerment) were somehow sinister and worthy of derision. These negative comments say more about his critics and where their intentions are at, and they ought to be ashamed.

Sanford Horwitt does a beautiful job breaking down the triumphs and tragedies of organizing in some very tough communities. He also takes a close look at the relationships required to actually bring about social change, touching on a vast network of allies from the Chicago Archdiocese to Stokely Carmichael to the founders of Marshall Field's Department Stores.
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34 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Saul Alinsky was a complex and colorful man of great integrity and a civic activist with world-wide influence. Dedicated to empowering the politically weak and unorganized, Alinsky is rightly credited as the founder of community self-help. In this highly readable account, we come to appreciate Alinsky's empathic genius and his flair for showmanship. He had an uncanny personal gift for discerning which acts of protest would get attention and results, as well as an ability to teach others some of the tricks of the trade. Of all the anecdotes in the book, perhaps the most memorable concerns the time that young Alinsky was hauled before his rabbi for socking a kid who had beat up his own best friend. Alinsky excuses his behavior as "eye for an eye", and part of the "American way". His rabbi's answer is memorable. "You think you're a man because you do what everyone else does. Now I want to tell you something the great Rabbi Hillel said: 'Where there are no men, be thou a man.' I want you to remember that." And Alinsky did.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Nikolay Mihaylov on December 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
I feel compelled to write my opinion as a person who works in communities and also a person who likes to know how to change our society for the better. Reading this book was an eye-opening and invigorating experience.

First, as a scientific piece of work, the biography is excellent. It is based on an enormous research, tens, maybe hundred of interviews, documents and historical evidence from the 1900s to 1970s. Every single claim in the book is backed by a reference to a document or interview. Sanford Horwitt also put great efforts to organize the variety of facts and events, which is extremely difficult, as Alinsky worked on several tracks in different places with different approaches. The personal and public life of Alinsky are also well combined in the book. In the end, the book follows a general chronological line, but the big chunks of Alinsky's experience are selected and collected quite well. The book is written with a visible positive attitude to Alinsky's cause. Nonetheless, it is very sincere, and does not omit the myriad weaknesses or failures of Alinsky. Especially for the professional reader (organizer, sociologist, psychologist, etc.), it is very informative about the details and real facts about working with people. So, in this sense, I recommend it to people interested in history, social sciences or the Humanity Sector.

Second, why read the book, for immediate practical reasons? Well, here's why. Alinsky is valuable as a rare example of a non-socialist left visionary and practitioner. (He is NOT a socialist, my dear Neo-McCarthyists). He is not a socialist in a very important sense. He embraced the competitive, every-man-for-himself democracy in USA, and he worked with underprivileged groups exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of US democracy "as it is".
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