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Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,570 Ratings  ·  386 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published October 23rd 1989 by Vintage (first published December 12th 1969)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike (the Paladin)
Jul 28, 2015 Mike (the Paladin) rated it did not like it
Shelves: political
Freely admitting I did not read this "thing" in detail(please note I said "in detail" not that I hadn't read it)...this is not my first brush with this small yet putrid tomb oops, I mean tome. I graduated high school in 1970...was cursed for wearing my dress army greens...and had friends who bought/buy into the poison Alinsky (a hero to many of the current administration in the white house) spews. From the opening appeal to Lucifer through it's "the ends justify the means" attitude it turns my s ...more
So this is the infamous Rules for Radicals. Believed by some on the far right as the Gospel according to St. Stalin of the Church of Satanic-Marxism-Leninism.

To be fair, it does hold interesting discussions of community organization, communication, across class and racial bounds to demand reform. Something which will upset conservatives, naturally, as they prefer for things to stay the same, or changed more slowly. There is much valuable to be learned here, for both left and right.

The big gripe
Jan 26, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I read Alinsky for the first time in graduate school, and pulled his books off the shelf again upon hearing that Barack Obama studied and was influenced by Alinsky in his days as a community organizer.

The book is as good as I remembered, and freshened upon re-reading by the ability to apply some of the discussion to Obama's campaign and early days in office. Alinsky was an organizer--a passionate pragmatist with a sense of humor, willing to compromise at any turn or use any means by which to ach
Dec 31, 2008 Luke rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: bleeding-hearts
Total hogwash. This is simply moral relativism clothed in political sophistry. Following the path of all relativistic philosophies, Alinsky contradicts himself constantly throughout the book. He argues the "duality of all phenomena" and then goes on to describe the status quo as intolerable. He makes statements like "He who fears corruption fears life" and then attacks the Pentagon for corrupt practices during the Vietnam war.

You can certainly see how The One drew much of his campaign philosophi
Stephen Drake
Jan 05, 2009 Stephen Drake rated it it was amazing
The first time I read this book was when I was sixteen. Since then, I have given away and replaced the book several times. Alinsky, who was active in both Chicago (where I lived for over ten years) and Rochester, NY (where I grew up and live now), was a terrific community organizer. The language is a little dated - definitely sexist by today's definitions - but it's a great reminder to those of us who get discouraged about fighting on unlevel playing fields. The playing fields have never been le ...more
Aug 09, 2007 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, activism
There are definite aspects of Alinsky's book that are getting a little outdated. It's interesting to read the final chapters, and see his hope for what essentially has become the responsible investment movement - a large part of which is students on campuses getting their schools to divest from companies involved in business with unethical political regimes - and to know the limits of that movement, and its failure to cause 'a middle class revolution' like the one he envisions. But then, his hop ...more
Jan 27, 2009 Laura rated it liked it
Ah, for the simpler days of radicalism, when you could get your college friends together for an impromptu rally, and no one had an excuse why they couldn't come.

That's not really what this book is about, but, having been written in 1971, it did inspire in me a bit of nostalgia for the kind of activism that was widespread then and is now alive and well only in places like San Francisco.

Alinsky is not anywhere near that idealistic. He was a down-and-dirty--and extremely effective--organizer who ha
Feb 17, 2008 Malcolm rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: social workers, activists
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 25, 2012 Kwriddle rated it did not like it
It’s very appropriate for Alinsky to dedicate this book to Satan. Like Satan, Alinsky mixes God’s word with his own lies to craft his socialist evil.
He warns those he calls “Have’s” to watch out for their “Have Not” neighbor because they’ll kill him and take what he has. Then he says the “Have Not” is justified in doing so. Well Alinsky, based on your stupid logic, the “Have” is also justified in killing the “Have Not” in defense. Alinsky states just the opposite. His stupid logic also says not
Apr 17, 2014 Natalie rated it it was amazing
I've been meaning to get around to Alinsky for years, and am so glad I finally borrowed a copy of this book from a friend.

The thing I appreciate most about this book is that he is so practical. I often get impatient with philosophical/ethical discourses about right and wrong and actions and consequences. The fact of the matter is, people are motivated by self-interest, and if you want to bring about a successful movement for justice, you have to appeal to that.

I think it is important to balanc
Oct 11, 2010 Cwn_annwn_13 rated it liked it
Alinsky was the left side of a two headed system approved Jewish Hydra operation out of Chicago. On one side you had Strausser who spawned the Neo-Con cabal that ruled the white house from 2000-2008. On the other side you had Alinsky who either influenced or in some cases out and out mentored people like Hilary Clinton, Cesar Chavez, Barry Satoro Obama, Bill Ayers, etc, etc. So their little globalist Marxist operation was quite succesful no doubt.

Alinsky for all his notoriety for rabblerousing
Della Scott
Jul 12, 2010 Della Scott rated it liked it
This is a book that I didn't want to read, but knew that I ought to read. During the 2008 presidential campaign, people were talking about it so much that one got the sense that maybe it wasn't necessary to read it--you already knew what was in it. But that's always a mistake. It's always better to go to the source. And actually, although the people on the talk radio stations that I listened to were taking about it a lot, people in mainstream media probably weren't talking about it enough, or el ...more
Dec 09, 2008 Lisa rated it liked it
In an amazing start to his book, Alinsky acknowledges "the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom--Lucifer." While I wouldn't put Alinsky in the same category as Lucifer, it does make me wonder why he would put radicals in the same category. I guess he has his reasons, and certainly those bomb throwers (Alinsky speaks against) belong to Lucifer.
Parts of the book were pretty slow (the first half.) It seems l
Jun 27, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Alinsky's classic about organizing in America is a fascinating work which is in many ways timeless. I found it inspiring and it definitely got me thinking about the often overlooked possibilities for creativity within collective action. In our modern era of letter-writing campaigns, call-in campaigns, and even protests, we can forget that "realistic radicals" have a much broader arsenal of rhetoric and media-grabbing actions (that can be more effective and more fun for their cadres to participat ...more
This book must have been recommended to me several dozen times over the course of the past year, from activists from either side if the ideological divide. Written by a rabid political organizer who cut his teeth organizing in the Depression-era south-side Chicago who makes no secret of the fact that he views a worker's revolution as inevitable and something that leftists should constantly work toward, and given that President Obama got his start organizing with the late Alinsky's group back in ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Jeanne rated it liked it
I liked this book. It was filled with some really great information and truths, as well as many false ideas, some of which might sound true.

I understand how young persons could be swept away by his rhetoric. As he states in the prologue--this book is for those who ask the greatest question: "Why am I here?" The reason why Alinsky must write this book is because the atheists have thrown out the purpose of life, which all end in Jesus Christ.

Christians don't need a mortal handbook to try to help
Mar 13, 2011 §-- rated it did not like it
Shelves: politics
I'm told this is Barack Hussein Obama's favorite book. Hillary Rodham did her thesis on Alinsky.

I guess this just goes to show what I should have known all along: I just can't be as smart as Barack and Hillary.

Oh, if only I could get a feel for what it's like to walk around being smart all day! Then I could understand this book, with its flat-out self-contradictions, its fatalism ("man is a bit of dust lit aflame for a passing moment"), its crazy rants (the entire final chapter), and its showing
Mar 08, 2009 Brian rated it liked it
Saul Alinsky presents those of us who talk about change without acting on it with an uncomfortable challenge: you are either actively opposing the establishment or you are siding with it. This challenge struck home with me and inspired me to invest more effort into connecting to local activists and engaging in direct action.

On the other hand, I found Alinsky's discussion of ends and means rather troubling. Alinsky tends to judge actions solely by their ends, and is so certain of the righteousnes
Jul 16, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: political, resource
Rating this GOOD is not accurate. But it is a Must Read unless what's going on now in America os not affecting you, or you don't care.
This is a reread from years ago in my social activist days. Amazing how one can see these techniques in use if our eyes are open.
Jun 27, 2007 Missy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: The Young and those who need their fire lit
Shelves: bestreadsever
This is just one of those books that people who are young and on fire should read. It is inspiring and thought provoking if not a little contreversial at times- especially when it was published I imagine.
Gordon Hilgers
Apr 17, 2015 Gordon Hilgers rated it really liked it
All the right wing hullabaloo over Saul Alinsky's "Rules For Radicaals", published in 1971, is what made me decide to read this--horrors!--book about community organizing. Since I have been involved in community organizing before, it only seemed logical to see if I could find some of the things I learned on the fly in Alinsky's book. And you know what? I did. Accident and necessity sometimes become crossing points where you act before you develop a rationale, and I remember interviewing a Dallas ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Rich rated it did not like it
Alinsky's message was never received in a significant sense. The Tactics weren't employed. The goals were not achieved. There was no Movement or revolution for which he made these rules. I don't think the Tactics would be effective if they were employed. They might have some effect against some low-level bureaucrats in the 1970's but the powers that be are insulated from Alinsky and his ways.

(Prologue) "What I have to say in this book is not the arrogance of unsolicited advice. It is the experie
Douglas Wilson
Jun 27, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
Alinsky was a tactical genius, but when it gets to foundational issues he is beyond sophomoric. A hard leftist, who did not know where he was going or why, but he was the kind of driver who knew how to make good time.
Apr 05, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am rating it a "really liked it" from the approach of it was interesting...not that I really liked all of the information. I will have a more complete review posted soon.
Jan 11, 2009 Petra rated it it was amazing
This was the first book I read for my first job out of college. I was in WAY over my head. However, this boook reminded why I was even there.
Timothy Riley
The Chapter on self interest as state motivation is classic. Loved the example of combatting the spread of communism or dictatorship by having "our communists" or "our dictators" be better than "their's". The chapters where he specifically went into effective activist strategies. He had a lot of success in New York state against Kodak and their policies as well as against other corporate monsters that had deep pockets and horribly unfair labor practices. He never shied away from going after stat ...more
Heath Schultz
some great insights, but also some sloppy arguments.
Marwa Assem Salama
Nov 11, 2014 Marwa Assem Salama rated it really liked it
While everyone around me browsing books’ indexes to choose one of them, I used to check out the dedication with a little of the introduction. And I think when a man has been working several years as a political activist and an organizer of oppressed societies, then started his most important book with these following lines, it is- to me- an enough reason to read it. He said: “lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, a ...more
Feb 02, 2011 Bill rated it liked it
Shelves: gml-dmin, culture, history
This is a "classic" in the field of social action. Alinsky does a great job of explaining how this world works, and how to be successful in organizing and leading social change. I would not recommend his tactics, as a Christian, but I think Christians can learn a few things from his work.

I point especially to his chapter on means and revolutions past, ends have always been used to justify means. Alinsky even points to Christians, on multiple occasions, demonstrating their inability to
Apr 20, 2009 Rebecca rated it liked it
On mens vs ends, Alinsky says, the answer lies in this ends and these particular means.
"He who fears corruption fears life"
"In the politics of human life, consistency is not a virtue"
"Ethics are determined by whether one is losing or winning"

La Rouchefoucauld: We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.
Goethe: "Conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action." The passives who say "this is not the time" value mystical objectivity rather than passio
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Somewhat dated but a must read for radicals 2 8 Nov 17, 2012 10:36AM  
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Saul David Alinsky was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing. His organizing skills were focused on improving the living conditions of poor communities across North America.
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“Curiosity and irreverence go together. Curiosity cannot exist without the other. Curiosity asks, "Is this true?" "Just because this has always been the way, is the best or right way of life, the best or right religion, political or economic value, morality?" To the questioner, nothing is sacred. He detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search of ideas no matter where they may lead. He is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting. He stirs unrest.” 52 likes
“A word about my personal philosophy. It is anchored in optimism. It must be, for optimism brings with it hope, a future with a purpose, and therefore, a will to fight for a better world. Without this optimism, there is no reason to carry on. If we think of the struggle as aclimb up a mountain, then we must visualize a mountain with no top. We see a top, but when we finall yreach it, the overcast rises and we find ourselves merely on a bluff. The mountain continues on up. Now we see the "real" top ahead of us, and strive for it, only to find we've reached another bluff, the top still above us. And so it goes on, interminably.
Knowing that the mountain has no top, that it is a perpetual quest from plateau to plateau, the question arises, "Why the struggle, the conflict, the heartbreak, the danger, the sacrifice. Why the constant climb?" Our answer is the same as that which a real mountain climber gives when he is asked why he does what he does. "Because it's there." Because life is there ahead of you and either one tests oneself in its challenges or huddles in the valleys of a dreamless day-to-day existence whose only purpose is the preservation of a illusory security and safety. The latter is what the vast majority of people choose to do, fearing the adventure into the known. Paradocically, they give up the dream of what may lie ahead on the heighs of tomorrow for a perpetual nightmare - an endless succession of days fearing the loss of a tenuous security.”
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