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Rules for Radicals [Kindle Edition]

Saul Alinsky
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (471 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


“Alinsky is that rarity in American life, a superlative organizer, strategist, and tactician who is also a social philosopher.”
—Charles E. Silberman

“He cannot be bought; he cannot be intimidated; and he breaks all the rules.”
The Economist (London)

“I consider him to be one of the few really great men of our century.”
—Jacques Maritain

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

This primers tells the "have-nots" how they can organize to achieve real political power for the practice of true democracy.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
541 of 603 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Explains a Lot of Things ... May 22, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The purpose for my reading this book was self-educational and an effort to be open-minded about the broad political spectrum that exists today. I found Alinsky's book to be enlightening, thought-provoking, interesting and very relevant. In fact, I strongly feel that "Rules for Radicals" provides a great deal of insight to the current state of political discourse in United States. However, after reading the book, I found myself wondering if Alinsky ever imagined his "radicals" achieving success to the point in which they themselves ultimately become victims of their own methods.

"Rules for Radicals" is essentially a guidebook that encourages individuals to gather, organize and develop a battle-plan to spread a socialist agenda; there is even a list of tactics to be used. Alinsky has conveniently simplified the complex socio-economic landscape of the United States into three groups: The Haves (upper-class), The Have Some, Want More (middle-class) and Have-nots (poor). It is explained that the Haves are the minority that possesses all the wealth/power which is used to ruthlessly exploit the lower classes to enforce their status-quo and maintain their wealth/ power. The Have-Some and Have-nots are basically characterized as being numerically strong, but also mindless and weak ... forced to a life dictated by the Haves. Alinsky then introduces the "community organizer" ... the do-gooder ... the pot-stirrer ... the "social-conscience" ... the one who will fight for those who "can't" or "won't" fight for themselves ... the one who will "take it to" the Haves. Ironically, I found that Alinsky's book provided more explanation of what our current President did prior to being in public office than any media source has ever tried to convey.
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83 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Study in Contradictions July 16, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
'Rules for Radicals' is nothing less than Alinsky's 'Mein Kampf'. He even cites the advantages of imprisonment for book writing which Hitler would have certainly agreed with. I have awarded this book 4 stars because it gives important insights into the philosophical underpinnings of Barack H. Obama, not because it is a great book and certainly not because I agree with it in most important areas.

At the same time, I recognize that Alinsky had qualities that most Leftist ideologues simply don't have. He was genuinely intelligent and had a deep knowledge and appreciation for frail human nature. He recognized the strengths and weaknesses of his adherents and opponents and used them for his own advantage. Not so surprisingly he places his motivations in JudeoChristian morality but then turns around and rejects morality when manipulating means to achieve these admirable goals. Enter Barack Obama. Lies, trickery and subterfuge are justiable in promoting revolutionary goals.

Many of his words, tactics and motives were tactics...but...there was a decisive difference. Whereas Marx looked to an end game of perfect communistic bliss, Alinsky regarded this as unrealistic. He advocated a program of institutionalized revolution which would, of course, fit perfectly with his personality because he, personally, was the institutionalization of Left Revolution.

Why perpetual revolution? He never quite spells it out. As a matter of fact he glosses over it. It's fun. It's a living.
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210 of 261 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Obama March 12, 2009
Having grown up in the sixties, remembering and participating in school sit-ins I was eager to reacquaint my self with a long lost name from the past. Saul D. Alinsky has been in the news again over the past year because of the campaign of Barak Obama the Chicago community organizer, turned politician.

This book, "Rules for Radicals" is must reading for anyone who desires insight into what is ahead for this country. There are several sections of the book, which after you read them, you think isn't that just what happened, or oh that's why he did this. The book is a collection of ideas, situations and anecdotes spun into an easygoing yarn of the life of a community organizer. An organizer helps the have-nots get what the haves have, and then he goes and helps the have-not's get what the haves have and then ... well you get the idea.

A must read for the curious and politically inclined.
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116 of 143 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Radical's Book September 18, 2009
This book is a methodical collection of thoughts, actions, and principles from the master 1930s-70s radical, Saul Alinsky, for maximizing opportunities to influence masses of people into rejecting and fighting the status quo. If you share Alinsky's basic and fundamental beliefs, this book is a great 'how-to' for becoming a radical and political activist. If you are opposed to Alinsky's political activism, born out of his negative outlook of and perspectives on our American way of life, this book can help you understand the methods and the 'madness' of those people and forces that disrupt and try to tear down our traditional societal norms.

This book was not an easy read for I disagreed strongly with what he said about my country that I love and his general outlook on life. Alinsky used the following terms interchangeably: "activist," "radical," "organizer," "agitator,"
"revolutionary," and "man of action." Another 'word group' used frequently was the many forms and variations of "organize" and "organizer" - some 356 times in 196 pages. I found his approach to change and reform crafty, cunning, deceitful, insidious, and disingenuous. His methods are masterfully designed to take advantage of our imperfect systems, and human weaknesses and tendencies. Another disturbing aspect of the book was the predominance of militaristic language when discussing the 'how' and 'why' of his logic: war, battle, attack, tactics, enemy, and strategy.

Alinsky was smart and well-read, but I believe he chose to put his intellect and energies to use for detrimental purposes. He offered many observations and perspectives that differed from my own beliefs and experiences, which was not necessarily a problem, but coming after his "acknowledgment to...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Great icebreaker
Published 9 hours ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars America
Good Book to get to know the enemy.
Published 5 days ago by Jack L Poitinger II
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Review
I had heard references to this book for years and finally decided to make time to read it. Saul Alinsky was a very influential person in the Civil Rights movement and accomplished... Read more
Published 6 days ago by RLK
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliance squared!
Should be required reading for every clergy person, business executive, and other leader. Alinsky is brilliant as both an organizer and a sociologist. Read more
Published 7 days ago by James K. Mcneely II
3.0 out of 5 stars Know your enemy
I got this book for a look into the mind of Barrack Obama. Very interesting. The tactics all make sense and I see them in use almost every time I watch the 6 o'clock news. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Benjamin Neal
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling, Disturbing and Eye-Opening
First off, unlike most of the negative reviewers, I'm a pretty liberal guy. I first flipped through this book 12 years ago when I was involved in some progressive/anti-war groups... Read more
Published 7 days ago by WinterWalker95
4.0 out of 5 stars The title says it all
The title says it all...............Barack Obama's textbook. If you want to see the playbook of the liberal agitating left.... Read more
Published 8 days ago by allsen648
3.0 out of 5 stars Did Not Age Well
The ideas are sound, but the expectations of dedication to his cause are nearly impossible today to the point of being outdated and unreasonable.
Published 10 days ago by K. P. Klima
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 12 days ago by shela lars
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
This explains Obama's actions.
Published 12 days ago by Carl Graul
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More About the Author

Saul Alinsky was born in Chicago in 1909 and educated first in the streets of that city and then in its university. Graduate work at the University of Chicago in criminology introduced him to the Al Capone gang, and later to Joliet State Prison, where he studied prison life. He founded what is known today as the Alinsky ideology and Alinsky concepts of mass organization for power. His work in organizing the poor to fight for their rights as citizens has been internationally recognized. In the late 1930s he organized the Back of the Yards area in Chicago (the neighborhood made famous in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle). Subsequently, through the Industrial Areas Foundation which he began in 1940, Mr. Alinsky and his staff helped to organize communities not only in Chicago but throughout the country. He later turned his attentions to the middle class, creating a training institute for organizers. He died in 1972.

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Topic From this Discussion
organizing for america recommends this book to high school students
I suggest this book as required reading for all high school and college students to use these methods against the radicals.
This book, depending on how it's taught, can go both ways. I'm sure that's not how Alinsky intended the book used, but information is power. Exposed, it's methods are clear... Read More
Mar 30, 2011 by Mirabeau B. Lamar |  See all 5 posts
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