There are few books that I would outright outline as evil, but this makes the list.
“How on earth could book about tactics for stimulating social action for the poor and underprivileged be considered evil?” you might say. I believe that the book embraces a philosophical abandonment of principles for the sake of progress. “What progress?” Almost any. Radicals, an extremist left-wing group, believe in change for the sake of change. A true ‘throw out the system and start again because it’s flawed’, mentality. Radicals compare the current form of society with varying degrees of heaven, while conservatives tend to see society as within a few yards from hell. Radicals believe in the Marxist division of the oppressed vs the oppressors in some zero-sum game, Saul Alinsky’s book attempts to formulate strategies for other Radicals, equipping them with the tools to flip the board.
The book’s moral compass is summarised by any ends justify any means, when the very thing that has always separated the tyrants to the just, throughout history, has always been the means.
Ends can justify the vilest of acts when you make your goal the ultimate regardless of what needs to be undertaken to achieve it, then you ultimately follow the lines of those who have done the most despicable of things. While, at the same time, undermining your own moral high ground for taking action in the first place.
Denis de Rougemont coined the phrase “Love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”, which I believe translates to something along the lines as if what you love becomes your ultimate in this life, it can also become destructive as it justifies all sorts of heinous actions. Saul Alinsky almost had good intentions in this book, but good intentions grounded in weak philosophical underpinnings and a flexible moral compass, seed the ground for terrible actions.
The only thing that this book creates if its underlying philosophical positions are adopted, is a dog-eat-dog, worse-case-scenario nash equilibrium outcome. The problem with contention of power in politics, geopolitics, business and in our very own personal lives, is that our principles of what is right and wrong too often take the backseat to what’s the most expedient way to get what we want.
Despite the book being terrible, I would recommend reading it if for no other reason than the fact that there are people think like Saul. Saul Alinsky has followers, followers who need to be won back to the side that states that it is better to lose on the side of good than to win on questionable grounds even if it’s a just war.
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