What I’m Reading: Rules for Radicals

Rules for RadicalsOn the advice of my friend Craig, I’ve picked up Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. What a fascinating and frightening book! It’s interesting enough to me that I’m going to be making a series of posts here summarizing and critiquing (and if you’d like, discussing) each chapter. Thus, I’ll not get into many specifics in this introductory post. I will, however, make a couple quick observations:

1. It’s a great read. Alinsky (1909-1972) is a tremendous communicator—witty, profound, and intelligent. All of which makes what he’s pushing (the fruits of which are evident all around you) all the more dangerous. You’ll like him. And you’ll fear him. But you won’t be sorry that you read him.

2. The comment I wrote at the end of the Preface: “Dude is shrewd.” With notable exceptions and contradictions, the thing he’s after is power—not justice, not reform, not an ideology. Frankly, he’s less noble than that, it seems. He’s a self-professed pragmatist. He tells radicals how to get power, and they have.

3. It will surprise you. I was bracing for inflammatory rhetoric that might incite riots. That’s exactly what it’s not. He argues against violence—not because it’s immoral, but because it’s ineffective. Again, he’s shrewd.

4. It’s not really about politics. It’s about truth (or the denial of truth; it’s a postmodernist’s dream), about God (or, you know, whatever), and about the meaning of life. Thus, I encourage you to read it not as a Republican or Democrat, not as a Capitalist or Communist, and not with an eye on our President (though I admit that that’s fascinating to do). Read it as a Christian with an eye on your neighbors. What Alinsky expresses is essentially the worldview of most of the people we’re trying to reach with the gospel.

If you’ve not read the book, hurry up and get a copy, and we’ll read it together. (Hurry. I’ll probably start posts on Friday.)

If you’ve read the book, do you agree with me so far?

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3 Responses

  1. Chris, this sounds like a twentieth century version of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Pragmatism rules. The end justifies the means.

    The Prince was a textbook for a college class eons ago…..

  2. Paul, Alinsky cites Machiavelli several times. Most notable is this quotation that starts the first chapter:

    “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.” (p. 3)

  3. […] No inciting violence there. People would have you believe he argues against violence. Clearly that’s not what I see in the wake of this man. If anything this man is guilty of […]

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