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 regard the current form of society as ‘almost’ hell due to the pervasive injustices, corruption and greed. The standard by which they compare it is varying degrees of heaven. This is compared to conservatives, who tend to see society as within a few yards from hell; usually held back by the powers of the dying remnants of western values. 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 that he himself used during his activist years.
The book’s moral compass is summarised by any ‘ends justify any means’, as if you’re society is hell imposed on the underprivilege by the tyrannical class structure, then any change by any means is good change. Valuing the means by which a goal is achieved is what has always separated good from evil, the tyrants from the just.
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 the 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 who 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’.
Saul Alinsky seeds the grouds for radical-utopianism in the western world, utopianism that inevitability flourishes in our ideologically fertile and nihilistic western culture. Utopianism that at its core, and is always, totalitarianism.
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