13 books that changed history: Rules for Radicals

The penultimate proposal in this series of 13 Books that changed history can take on a new meaning in this current context in which the concept of community work is especially valid (and is especially relevant). Today, something that for the most critical and mobilized sectors of society was always a basic certainty is, for many people, more evident than ever: that action based on solidarity, the search for the common good, mutual support and organization are essential to constructively change our societies and achieve social justice. Something that our proposal today focuses on in a special way: Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals.

Rules for Radicals (1971) brings together, in a deep and pedagogical way, the knowledge and experience obtained by Alinsky after a lifetime of academic study and field work focused on the search for new forms of organization of communities, including research, training of activists, management of groups and the creation of work networks.

Saul Alinsky was an American sociologist, trade unionist and activist, a fundamental (and founding) figure of the so-called community organization in the United States, belonging to the radical left. After developing work as a teacher and social researcher in the field of applied sociology (a facet that would be very present in his life, and that would allow him to carry out a deep and accurate analysis of social reality) he began his most active stage outside of the offices working on citizen organization processes in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of the city of Chicago, where he lived. The success and originality of one of his works, in the Back of the Yards area, in the same city, confirmed Alinsky as a well-known social thinker. After this, he participated in the formation of various community work organizations in the USA (among them, the Industrial Areas Foundation, which today has a presence throughout the country). Rules for Radicals, was Alinsky’s last book, written just a year before his death. In the same line of thought, in 1946, he had written Reveille for Radicals.

Rules for Radicals is a text that allows knowing Alinsky’s thinking about the potential of connective work between people within communities. An interesting reading work, light in form but dense and deep in content, which offers a good number of suggestions, tips and some tricks to set the course for a path of joint work, in the joy and support that the community provides, towards a revolutionary horizon.

📷 Image: unknown author.

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