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Saul Alinsky's work is an important reference point for thinking about community organizing and community development. His books Reveille for...

"The Industrial Areas Foundation of Saul Alinsky has been referred to numerously in community organization. After reviewing the article listed in your required reading, research the roots of this method and discuss its application of “ends justifying the means” in today’s economy. Clarify if this theory is still applicable; why or why not; under what circumstances? Provide a specific example to illustrate your perspective. Prepare a two- to- three page paper (excluding title and reference pages) with a minimum of two scholarly citations in APA format.

Saul Alinsky's work is an important reference point for thinking about community organizing and community development. His books Reveille for Radicals (1946) and Rules for Radicals (1971) were both classic explorations of organizing and remain popular today. Mike Seal examines Alinsky's continuing relevance to the activities of informal educators, community organizers and animateurs. contents: introduction · saul alinsky's life and work · alinsky on means and ends · alinsky on liberalism and radicalism · rules for radicalism · conclusion · further reading and references · how to cite this article Only two kinds of people can afford the luxury of acting on principle, those with absolute power and those with none and no desire to get any. ..everyone else who wants to be effective in politics has to learn to be ‘unprincipled’ enough to compromise in order to see their principles succeed. (Rogers 1990: 12) Liberals in their meetings utter bold words; they strut, grimace belligerently, and then issue a weasel-worded statement 'which has tremendous implications, if read between the lines.' They sit calmly, dispassionately, studying the issue; judging both sides; they sit and still sit. (Alinsky 1971: 4) The Radical may resort to the sword but when he does he is not filled with hatred against those individuals whom he attacks. He hates these individuals not as persons but as symbols representing ideas or interests which he believes to be inimical to the welfare of the people. (Alinsky 1946: 23) Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972) was both a committed organizer and activist (founding the Industrial Areas Foundation in Chicago) and an influential writer. His books Reveille for Radicals (1946) and Rules for Radicals (1972) were, and remain, important statements of community organizing. Alinsky's ideas bear careful exploration and have a continuing relevance for informal educators and all those whose role involves trying to effect change in communities. They are particularly useful for those who have to engage with local or national power structures and workers who wish to engage alienated or disparate communities and seek common cause between them. His thoughts on the nature of work with communities are challenging, and yet relevant. In this article I want to expand on three areas. On: the place of principles and morality in community work; what it is to be a liberal or a radical; and rules for how to engage with power structures effectively. The three quotes above are meant to encapsulate his thinking on these subjects. I will go on to expand on the ideas that stem from them.
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Saul Alinsky's life and work Saul Alinsky was born in Chicago on 30 January 1909, the child of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. Saul Alinsky's parents divorced when he was 13 years old, and he went to live with his father who had moved to Los Angeles. At an early age he was interested in the dynamics of power and the interaction between those who are denied resources and those who deny. 'I never thought of walking on the grass,' he recalls, 'until I saw a sign saying 'Keep off the grass.' Then I would stomp all over it.' He earned a doctorate in archaeology from the University of Chicago in 1930. However, it was spending a summer helping dissident miners in their revolt against John L. Lewis's United Mine Workers that influenced his future direction. Upon graduation he won a fellowship from the university's sociology department which enabled him to study criminology. He went to work for Clifford Shaw at the Institute for Juvenile Research and soon found himself working at the State Penitentiary (at which he stayed for three years). At this time he married Helene Simon, with whom he had a son and a daughter. He had met Helene while studying at the University and they married in 1932. As Horwitt (1989: 17) has commented, the Depression and the growing turbulence of the 1930s politicized both of them. Helene, a social worker, was a strong organizer and gained a considerable reputation in the labour movement. In 1936 Saul Alinsky left his work at the Penitentiary to return to the Institute in Chicago. He appeared set for a career as a criminologist, however a growing concern to counter the threat of Fascism, and the development of more militant labour organizing (especially that linked to the development of the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) grew in their appeal. Alinsky was particularly struck by the way in which John L. Lewis led the CIO (Horwitt 1989: 17). Clifford Shaw and Saul Alinsky were both convinced that it was the 'social milieu' that caused delinquency rather than some particular quality of individuals. It was the study of this – and in particular gang life – that took Alinsky to South Chicago and then to the Back-of-the-Yards (the slum area that Upton Sinclair had earlier written so movingly about in The Jungle). There Saul Alinsky found a number of people who wanted change. Joe Meegan, who had grown up in the area worked his way through De Paul University, and had become a teacher became a key ally and together they set up the Back-of-the-Yards Neighborhood Council. While historically an Irish-Catholic community, they were able to identify common interests that brought together previously hostile ethnic groups of Serbs and Croatians, Czechs and Slovaks, Poles and Lithuanians in the community and brought them into the organization. Alinsky also worked closely with local Catholic priests to build the council. The way they built the coalition meant that the council had great success in stabilizing the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood and in advocating for that community. In 1939 Saul Alinsky established the Industrial Areas Foundation to bring his method of reform to other declining urban neighborhoods. He left the Institute to work for the Foundation. His approach depended on uniting ordinary citizens around immediate grievances in their neighborhoods and in protesting vigorously and outside of the ‘established’ ways of expressing dissent (see below). He concentrated on recruiting and training indigenous ‘organizers’ to take a lead in the communities. His first book Reveille for Radicals outlines the principles and practice of community organizing and just one month after its publication in 1946 it made the New York Times best-seller list (Horwitt 1989: 176).
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