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Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky Hardcover – June 29, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (June 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584393
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584393
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,297,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Saul Alinsky, the fiery Chicago activist whose 1971 Rules for Radicals is regarded as the organizer's bible, has already been memorialized in a biography, a documentary, and a play, which is why von Hoffman (Citizen Cohn), who spent a decade working with Alinsky as an organizer, wisely offers an homage, as opposed to a biography or an exegesis on [Alinsky's] thinking. What follows is a scattering of anecdotes and stray talking points—some of them insightful, like his observation that Alinsky won his reputation for cynicism by insisting that most of us are moved to action by self-interest first, moral principles second, if at all, many of them hazily remembered and poorly structured. Von Hoffman writes in a loose style that has the beat and rhythm of Chicago street talk, but as the sparsely punctuated sentences twist and turn, confusion takes over and the folksy charm wears thin. Such missteps are easy enough to overlook, but they add up, and after a while readers might wish the author had taken a more conservative approach to grammar, if not to politics. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Saul Alinsky—the audacious, streetwise, “infernally creative” social visionary who innovated the practice of community organizing to combat poverty and racism in viciously segregated and brazenly corrupt postwar Chicago—called himself a radical, which he defined as “someone who was mentally tough.” And so he was. Alinsky's no-nonsense approach to grassroots democracy was forged in his research into organized crime and resulted in his building the foundation for “countless” community organizations across the country that enable people to take charge of their lives. And now he will forevermore be known as a guiding light for President Obama. Von Hoffman was 22 in 1953 when he began working for Alinsky, and he kept at it for 10 wild years, the wellspring for this vivid collage of recollected conversations and adventures, arresting observations, and incendiary opinions. Alinsky emerges from von Hoffman's impish, provocative mosaic as a man who loved life and his calling, a “superbly imaginative tactician” who picked fights he could win; had the lowdown on the powers-that-be, from outright gangsters to corrupt and powerful Catholic clergy; was close friends with philosopher Jacques Maritain; hated fund-raising; and loved Alice in Wonderland. Von Hoffman's intimate, illuminating homage celebrates an American original and meaningful activism. --Donna Seaman

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peter Bloch on June 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you love politics, you won't want to miss this little book that's filled with great stories. Saul Alinsky was the Godfather of Community Organizing, whose brilliant tactics inspired Hillary Clinton (Alinsky wanted to hire her out of college) and Obama, but whose genius these days can be seen most effectively in the tea party protests against Obama's health care reforms and against establishment politics in general. Von Hoffman worked with Alinsky in the 60s and his first-hand account of Chicago politics, and the larger-than-life rogues and heroes who dominated the city, as well as the Catholic Church in that era, is a treat for any history buff.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Observer on March 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Nicholas Von Hoffman's reverential memoir of Saul Alinsky is well written, enlightening and thought provoking. Based on Hoffman's intimate recollections of 10 years working with him, Alinsky emerges as a sympathetic almost likable character. Hoffman portrays a man deeply committed to making democracy work for all, especially those who appear to be chronically powerless and victims of various forms of institutional prejudice, neglect and malevolence.
Anyone who has struggled against the "powers that be" will surely recognize the importance of many of the organizational principles Alinsky championed. In his own terms there is not really that much to object to in Alinsky's activities. Besides noise, disruption and tumult nobody appears to have been hurt. According to Hoffman, Saul Alinsky was against large government, exploitation of people, physical violence and fascism as practiced by the left and right. His world view and pursuit of social justice certainly clicked with many powerful players within the Chicago Catholic Church including Jacques Maritain, the notable and thoughtful Catholic philospher, and among more liberal Chicago plutocrats.
Alinsky was a man of action; a man who did whatever he could to get things done so that ordinary people could gain more control over their own lives. He believed in and practiced bully politics - Chicago style - and was very good at it. He was among the first and more thoughtful of the pot bangers.
So why does he and his tactics engender so much hostility and visceral hatred from so many - even those who share his interest in social justice? Why does he receive more openly hostile criticism than Gandhi and Martin Luther King? Alas Hoffman's book does little to address this issue. Was Alinsky a Marxist? Perhaps, but Hoffman says not.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
a necessary recollection of a person too little known...his spirit triumphed in the 2012 election..spread the word to both Democrats and RepublicaNS
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Kaldis on July 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a rambling memory of the radical who influenced this author when he first moved to Chicago and the current President of the USA, Obama. There are a lot of interesting stories, but not cohesive.
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