Acton Institute: Alinsky for Dummies

For those who don’t know how Saul Alinsky influenced some of our current political and cultural leaders, listen to this primer on Alinsky held a few months back at the Acton Institute. Alinsky’s methodology came of age in the 1960’s and 1970’s and has been institutionalized especially in the academy and the cultural left where aging radicals still believe the mythology of the chosen generation. For a deeper treatment see: Why There Is A Culture War: Gramsci and Tocqueville in America.

Source: Acton Institute blog

Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky

From the Acton Institute Blog:

We’re posting the audio from Mr. Joseph Morris’ excellent May 6 Acton Lecture Series presentation, Alinsky for Dummies: His Persistent Influence and Its Meaning for American Society and Politics. As Lord Acton warned that power corrupts, Saul Alinsky — the father of modern “community organizing” — rejoiced that corruption empowers. As Morris pointed out, decades after Alinsky’s death his ideas and teaching continue to shape the American political and social landscape. Barack Obama’s first job in Chicago was as an “organizer” for an Alinsky group; Hillary Clinton’s undergraduate thesis was written on Alinsky’s precepts; contemporary organizations from the notorious ACORN to the Catholic-Church-supported United for Power and Justice are among Alinsky’s progeny. The lecture provided an overview of Alinksy’s thinking and showed how that thinking is applied in current events. Morris encouraged ALS attendees to read Alinsky’s short but seminal Rules for Radicals, widely available in inexpensive paperback editions.

Listen to the audio on the Acton Institute blog.


  1. Fr. Peter Dubinin :

    O yes, Saul Alinsky…. I was first introduced to Saul Alinsky in my Power and Change in Society class as an UG at Loyola, Chicago. I wrote a critique of his book from what I thought was a clear, point of reference (God is personal, has revealed Himself and in that revelation provides to us an absolute to know right from wrong) perspective. Though my professor attempted to be understanding to my perspective, I got “tore up.” You see, in Alinsky’s scheme of things, there is no wrong or right; just what the “group” can change and gain for itself – no holds barred. If I need to deceive to realize my/group objective, I deceive; if I need to penetrate the very organization I hope to refashion or overthrow, then I peneterate the organization and work from within, etc., etc….. As a young undergrad, I could envision the chaos and even “anarchy” which could ensue by special interests employing Alinsky to realize their own objectives. My angst is further exacerbated to think of Alinsky being employed within the framework of a national government; by employing Alinsky in this arena, it contributes to creation of an atmosphere which will require the government to step up its police and law enforcement powers/activities in order chaos does not ensue and anarchy does not materialize; all the while playing “big brother” to all members of the collective.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Fr Peter, I used to think that Alinsky was a modern Macchiavelli, but the more I learned about him, the more I came to realize how unfair I was being to Maccchiavelli. Though both were atheists, Macchiavelli at least believed in order.

      • Exactly. From the story of Pandora’s box to the axiom about riding the Tiger, every culture has recognized that caution is warranted. It takes staggering arrogance to unleash chaos and think that you won’t be caught up in it.

  2. cynthia curran :

    Alinsky is rather interesting, the left has him like the right had Otto Van Bismarck. Bismarck created the modern welfare state to avoid the growth of the socalist. Also, Bismarck has a strong influence on most conseratives in the us being strong on defense, while American Conseratives like classical liberals on the ecnomony, they like Bismarck and Disreali on foreign policy.

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