Friday, December 17, 2010

My final thoughts on Saul Alinsky's book

This is the third installment of notes and small comments on my reading of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals (see my previous notes here and here). Most of this stuff are selections from my notes in my personal journal that I felt could be shared with my three readers.

I found the next passage a bit depressing when thinking about it. However, it is an important concept in organizing and getting allies to your cause. Alinsky writes:

"With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason-- this is a fight with a windmill" (76). 

Nice allusion to Don Quijote, but when you read the passage, it is clearly very Machiavellian. The basic message is who cares why your allies join you, just as long as they do join your cause and you make progress to a better world.

A bit more on the organizer:

"He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to progress toward a rational world" (76). 

Basically, you make deals with people who have different values and agendas, but we all share a common goal, this in order to get said program or goal going.

On leadership versus organizing, though I wonder if leadership here means more management (and I don't mean that as a positive). Alinsky writes,

"This is the basic difference between the leader and the organizer. The leader goes on to build power to fulfill his desires, to hold and wield the power for purposes both social and personal. He wants power himself. The organizer finds his goal in creation of power for others to use" (80). 

By that definition, a lot of librarians should strive to be organizers. It certainly is something I aspire to, not to mention that, by that definition, I care not for leadership (or management rather, which I think is really what we are looking at here, and yes, this would include most if not all politicians).

On getting your "credentials" as an organizer:

"The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a 'dangerous enemy'" (100). 

This may be something to aspire for, but it may be more difficult in librarianship where image is everything. A new or less experienced librarian (or we can add one on the tenure line but not tenured yet if in academia) trying this would be pretty much shunned and beaten down by the establishment. However a librarian with nothing to lose and a strong sense of what is right could certainly go for it. I know I do, or try to but there is still work to do. Librarians like the Connecticut Four or the Radical Reference volunteers make a good model for being a dangerous enemy to the establishment. Maybe there is some hope; after all, way I see it, a good librarian is a dangerous librarian.

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