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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.
I've read many books from the right and the from the left end of the political spectrum. Many authors who take aim at American capitalism fall short with an entrenched bias that weakens their critiques and inevitable solutions. No so with Mr. Alinksky. This is one of the first books that I have read that bore a chilling grasp of reality and an unapologetic commitment to attack thy neighbor. This man is not actually a documented socialist or communist...he's a pure strain of Anti-American capitalism that stands alone in its 'action' ideology. I found myself fearing his thinking as much as I did appreciating the cold logic he brought to bear on these pages. He doesn't seem to really want a peaceful society, but envisions a society that is constantly at war with itself from within. Make no mistake, the ideas of this book are dangerous because they are realistically cunning. He outlines his dismissal of ethics in social warfare and makes the age-old case for the ends justifying the means, step 1 for any evil enterprise. The most horrifying conclusion is who Saul Alinsky identifies as Public Enemy #1 in America. The Middle Class. Me, you, and 87% of Americans. Saul's call to arms is aimed solely at the Middle Class...to undermine that belief system...to ridicule that way of life...to mock and agitate the people of the Middle Class...and ultimately to convert a segment of the Middle Class into an ally against the rest of the Middle Class. Saul evens opens the book with a salute to the 'very first radical' whom he admired...Lucifer. Jeesh.
55 of 63 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
The book is a symptom of the age it was written in. The thoughts that provoke it are roughly 50 years old. Kent State, Vietnam, Race Riots, etc., are the stage for Alinsky's acts. Alinsky generally wants to effect "meaningful" change in the environment that surrounds him, and using "radical" political tactics to attempt it. What I would change about the book is not Alinsky's tactics, because they are just a symptom of the nature of what happens when you have large multinational corporations and all-powerful, unaccountable-to-the-people government actors. What I would change is our tendency in the USA to assume that bigger, larger, more government, "if there was just a law that" unbridled use of force by those in power against those not in power will solve our perception of what ails our country. We are our own worst enemies. It is not a left thing nor a right thing, because both use that power to retaliate against one another when they have it. Inasmuch, it is a vicious circle where human beings in general lose.
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
What was amazing to me is that for all Alinsky wants to change, for all his tactics, for all that he visions for the future, much of it has come to pass. Both of the major political parties in the USA use his tactics. Yet 45 years hence, his vision was short-sighted for the very reasons of his "change at any cost" tactics themselves in my honest opinion. "The Way Ahead" is the last part of his book which summarizes the very issues that have motivated Alinsky to write this book. The issues still exist today, regardless of the very use of his tactics. The Democrats are just as much war mongers as the Republicans. The middle-class is disappearing, the very people that he describes as bourgeoisie, and decadent. Yet we find that this class is the one that provides a stability / productivity function for the success of any nation. The poorest 1% of our country are the richest 99% compared to the rest of the world. The police are more militarized than anything we ever saw in the turbulent '60s, and instead of using the art of negotiation to diffuse conflict, the course of action is to shoot first, and manufacture evidence second. There still is no accountability. There is no equality of justice. "The silent majority now are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay. This sick condition in many ways is as explosive as the current race crisis. Their fears and frustrations at their helplessness are mounting to a point of a political paranoia which can demonize people to turn to the law of survival in the narrowest sense." Does not each side of the political process not feel this way about the other? "Of all the pollution around us, none compares to the political pollution of The Pentagon. From the Vietnam War, simultaneously suicidal and murderous, to a policy of getting out by getting in deeper and wider, to the Pentagon reports that strain even a moron's intelligence that within the next 6 months, the war would be won." Can we cut and paste Iraq, Syria, Libya in place of Vietnam and get any different story? These are both the most and least interesting aspects of this story because we have history as our guide. You can't change the corruption of the military industrial complex, the political parties with the corporate lobbyists and PACs that play both sides of the aisle, the DC cesspool where "absolute power corrupts absolutely" by implementing "reforms" and restrictions that put more power in the hands of the corrupt and unanswerable elite and take away the power from the people themselves. The answer is individualism, accountability, competition, and equal justice for everyone, which is the antithesis of how our Federal, State, and Local governments operate today.
Did Rules for Radicals inspire you to do anything?
Yes, it did inspire me to recognize Alinsky's tactics in use today and how to formulate countermeasures against them. "It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." -- Sun Tzu, "The Art of War", Chapter 3.
Any additional comments?
One of Hillary Clinton's mentors was Saul Alinsky. Understanding Alinsky gives you insight into the political actors that make up government today. They use his tactics on "both sides of the aisle." Regardless of how distasteful I find politics and these tactics, those that do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Being an Tea Party, independent conservative libertarian that has listened to conservative talk radio for 30 years, I have always heard about this book being satanic to be handled with a chem suit and tossed into a landfill, and first to go when needing to burn something for heat, however Alinsky was brilliant and truly ahead of his time. I have read just about every management, strategy and leadership book there is, and this one was the best. I saw a lot of his videos thinking the guy was complete garbage but after reading the book you can see it was an act and he was playing his part. I don't agree with everything he said about the poor and have not's because life is about breaking through the noise and becoming someone and making something of yourself, life is a challenge, its not supposed to be easy to win, however his message was well defined and acute to the times he lived and regardless of anything, he did find his purpose in life and executed it flawlessly.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Rules for Radicals?
I found the book completely enjoyable, but what I did find interesting was that he wrote this book as the counter for The Prince by, Niccolò Machiavelli. Saying that the Prince was made for those that have to keep what they have and his book Rules for Radicals was written to the have not's to take from those that had. I also liked how he stated as long as your friends don't turn their brutal tactics on you they are considered angelic and heavenly, however the moment they turn those same tactics on you they are considered vile, evil and nukeable. I also liked the fact he was viciously hard on himself.
Which character – as performed by Scott Lange – was your favorite?
Scott Lange was an excellent reader, the first thing I did was look for other books he had narrated. I hope he does many more books.
If you could give Rules for Radicals a new subtitle, what would it be?
Radicals is an aged name and it doesn't mean what it used to. But the title should be, "Mastering Mass Persuasion, The Non-Government Propaganda Way."
Any additional comments?
This book is a classic and should be treated as such. This book is not evil, its up there with Drucker, Deming and Durant! What a strategist, tactician, philosopher and executioner!
17 of 20 people found this review helpful
Many people on the right have said this was the playbook for POTUS44 and I can totally agree. However I also believe it can be used by anyone on either side of the political spectrum. It's definitely a great guide for someone who wants to deceive even those on their own team. When I was finished reading and the main thing that has stuck with me was how arrogant Saul Alinsky must have been.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Great book. I did not read it to make trouble. I read this book to understand the current POTUS and HRC.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
Certainly brilliant from a tactician's point-of-view, but nonetheless sociopathic. The "ends justify any means" mindset may get a person/group what they want in the short term, but it does the seeds of constant discord. Of course, that seems to be the plan as Alinsky & his acolytes believe that it's not enough to get what you want/need, but to always strive for more. The irony being that this is a very good let me that they are supposedly fighting against.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Rules for Radicals the most enjoyable?
I bought this book just moments after listening to Ben Carson's speech at the GOP convention. And I'm sure many Americans did, so I guess the producers of this book can thank the brain surgeon. <br/>If you've read "The Prince" and "The 48 Laws of Power", this book will not shock you at all. It's the good old philosophy of pragmatism and realpolitik. Something that is not new to the american's way of doing things, whether they're Liberals or conservatives. Do what you can with what you've got, in order to achieve what you want. Period. <br/>The one new thing that I've learned from this book is the way Alinsky rationalises the means and the ends. He doesn't exactly think that the ends justify the means, but he thinks each particular ends call for some particular means at a particular moment. Example: it's hardly believable that America dropped the A-bombs on Japan in august 1945 solely in order to save american lives. But that argument would have been more believable if the bombs were dropped the day after Pearl Harbor. Nobody approves murder, but everybody respects self defense. So no means is intrinsically bad or good, only the circumstance makes it bad or good. I thought that was interesting.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
A admired Alinsky's practical realism and his respect for other people's viewpoints, the country, flag, and its foundations, but his actions to undermine his govt (the evil establishment) received no ideological examination in this book. Rules for Radicals is strictly about the "how" not the "why." Like reading the other team's playbook, their actions become clearer now.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
I'm happy Alinsky's tactics have given rise to a MAGA organized conservative community pushing back
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The book was very insightful on how democrats and progressives get what they want by playing dirty and manipulating people and systems. Thanks for the education.
11 of 17 people found this review helpful
First of all, I must say that Scott Lange is a brilliant, gifted narrator. The material of this book is tedious at best, and obnoxious at worst; yet Scott manages to infuse the whole reading with interest, and maintain the attention of the reader. He does this, I think, by carefully varying the cadence and pauses, according to tiny variations in the material. I shall look out for further readings by him.
As regards the book, it would take another book to pick it apart its vile views and decadent advice, but hopefully the future listener, whether of the left or the right, will be able to note its defects themselves. Suffice it to say however, that if you are middle class, Alinsky repeatedly says that you lead a boring, meaningless existence, alienated from your children, and your only hope is to become politically active with him on his campaigns as an 'organiser'. Forget about the enjoyment of picnics with your children, or happy days fishing - for Alinsky you are just an empty drone, waiting to be programmed with his 'meaning' on another campaign.
One of those campaign methods is to consume masses of baked beans with your fellow enlightened ones, then go into a concert hall and all fart all the way through, as a form of warfare by sound and smell. Another method is to gang up on a lone woman administrator in her office, then shout her down for 15 minutes in order to achieve a sense of solidarity in your gang of bullies.
What Alinsky advocates is the exploitation of the vulnerabilities of polite, civil, democratic society, in order to achieve what he deems to be superior ends. The obvious consequence is our degeneration into an impolite, uncivil, undemocratic society, and once we've lost those precious qualities, we won't get them back.
Those tactics are all around us now, in the format of current political discourse. We live in an Alinsky framework. The split between left and right is getting wider, the lack of understanding is getting deeper, and the hatred is getting stronger. Alinsky's teaching that the end justifies the means so 'anything goes', is evident in the physical attacks on ordinary Americans for a hat they are wearing, or the shut down of speaker events by threats of violence, or actual violence.
Its only a matter of time before those being physically attacked learn to adapt to the new political environment, then the forces of left and right will be equal again, but we will all be socially poorer. We will look nostalgically at black and white tv debates between opposing sides, done with respect and courtesy. We will be surprised to see historical footage of protests where the opposing sides do not simply try to kill each other.
That is why everyone who is interested in political action should read this book, even when it makes them want to vomit. The ideas of this book are all around us, and leading us to a darker place. A better knowledge of just how corrupting and damaging these ideas are, may allow us to reject them before it is too late.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful