Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky

Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky

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by Nicholas von Hoffman
     
 

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From Left to Right, one man has influenced them all: Saul Alinsky. Radical is a personal portrait of this controversial mastermind of popular movements, a man who is often called the American Machiavelli.

The tactics and strategy of Alinsky, who died in 1972, have been studied by people as diverse as Barack Obama, Cesar Chavez, Hillary Clinton, Dick

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Overview

From Left to Right, one man has influenced them all: Saul Alinsky. Radical is a personal portrait of this controversial mastermind of popular movements, a man who is often called the American Machiavelli.

The tactics and strategy of Alinsky, who died in 1972, have been studied by people as diverse as Barack Obama, Cesar Chavez, Hillary Clinton, Dick Armey, the Tea Partiers, and activists and organizers of every persuasion. Thousands of organizations around the country owe their inspiration and origins to Alinsky—who is to community organizing what Freud is to psychoanalysis.

As told by his friend and protégé Nicholas von Hoffman, whom Alinsky dubbed “in all the world my favorite, drinking, talking, and thinking companion,” Radical is an intimate look at the man who made a career of arming the powerless and enraging the powerful. From Alinsky’s smuggling guinea pigs into the Joliet state penitentiary to the famous Buffalo fart-in. von Hoffman’s book reveals the humor as well as the ideals and anger that drove Alinsky to become a major figure in a democratic tradition dating back to Tom Paine.

Many of the stories about politicians, bishops, gangsters, millionaires, and labor leaders, which Alinsky did not want made public in his lifetime, are told here for the first time in Radical. Von Hoffman captures Alinsky’s brilliant critique of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s organizational tactics and where and why they succeeded or failed. It was a career that began in the politics and violence of the Great Depression and worked its way through the Communist threat, the racial struggles, and the Vietnam War protests of the second half of the twentieth century.

The first book to explain why so many have co-opted Alinsky’s ideas, and the first to explain why so many contemporary politicians misunderstand his message, Radical will become essential reading for anyone interested in American politics, past and present.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Saul Alinsky, the fiery Chicago activist whose 1971 Rules for Radicals is regarded as the organizer's bible, has already been memorialized in a biography, a documentary, and a play, which is why von Hoffman (Citizen Cohn), who spent a decade working with Alinsky as an organizer, wisely offers “an homage,” as opposed to a “biography or an exegesis on [Alinsky's] thinking.” What follows is a scattering of anecdotes and stray talking points—some of them insightful, like his observation that Alinsky “won his reputation for cynicism by insisting that most of us are moved to action by self-interest first, moral principles second, if at all,” many of them hazily remembered and poorly structured. Von Hoffman writes in a loose style that has the beat and rhythm of Chicago street talk, but as the sparsely punctuated sentences twist and turn, confusion takes over and the folksy charm wears thin. Such missteps are easy enough to overlook, but they add up, and after a while readers might wish the author had taken a more conservative approach to grammar, if not to politics. (July)
From the Publisher
Wall Street Journal
“[Von Hoffman] cautions that some of the quoted material represents his best memory of ‘things said a very long time ago.’ The result is literature, a charmingly picaresque... tale of a man whose job description was first, last and always Disturber of the Peace. The book’s chief delights are its sense of place—Chicago from the 1930s through the 1960s—and the cast of characters who share the stage with the main player as he struts and frets so colorfully.”

Mother Jones
“In his artful portrait, Von Hoffman aims to reclaim the godfather of grassroots activism for the left.”

Booklist, starred
“Von Hoffman’s intimate, illuminating homage celebrates an American original and meaningful activism.”

Carl Bernstein
Radical is a rare gem, the brilliantly-told tale of one of the enduring characters of modern American history: Saul Alinsky, the savvy and cerebral Chicago ‘community organizer’ who continues to influence our epoch. How remarkable that Alinsky came to profoundly touch the lives of three young citizens seeking their own identity in that city between the 1950s and the 1980s – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nicholas von Hoffman, who has crafted an important story that is part history, part memoir and altogether wonderful entertainment.”

Jonathan Alter
“Saul Alinsky once said that he didn’t join the Communist Party as a young man ‘because I have a sense of humor.’ So does this book. Nicholas von Hoffman, a legendary figure in his own right, brings alive not just his old boss Alinsky but all the flora and fauna of old Chicago—the union organizers, gangsters and neighborhood characters of a lost world. This is a raucous and charming first-hand account of one of the greatest small ‘d’ democrats in American history. It sheds light not just on Alinsky but on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and a whole generation of activists who carry a part of him within them.”


 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568584393
Publisher:
Nation Books
Publication date:
06/29/2010
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Nicholas von Hoffman spent ten years as Saul Alinsky’s top community organizer then went to work as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and then the Washington Post, where he also wrote a syndicated column. He has been a commentator for both CBS radio and TV, doing a regular feature on 60 Minutes and for CBS radio news. He served as the American correspondent for the The Spectator (London) and has written for various magazines. He is the author of numerous books, including Citizen Cohn, which was made into an HBO movie.

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Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky (Large Print 16pt) 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alinsky is interesting as a historical figure but whatever your political philosophy this books goofy concept of modern relevance will lead you more dazed and confused than what silly idea lead you to this purchase.