Saul Alinsky’s 13 Rules for Radicals – Summary
Rule 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
Power is derived from two main sources – money and people. Those lacking money must exploit human capital. To be truly successful you must gain both. “All war is deception.” – Sun Tzu
Rule 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
Keep your mission simple. Going outside your own expertise results in confusion, fear and retreat. Enhance groupthink to ensure a feeling of security.
Rule 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
Look for ways to exploit insecurity, anxiety, and uncertainty in the enemy camp.
Rule 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
Keep the enemy off-balance and wasting resources. If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. No one can possibly obey all of their own rules. Take advantage of your enemy’s own sense of fairness and propriety even if it is necessary to discard your own.
Rule 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
Criticize your enemy solely for the sake of criticism. It is irrational, demoralizing, and infuriating. Since there is no defense, it may work as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
Rule 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
Encourage in your ranks creative nihilism. They’ll keep doing it without urging and it will become a habit.
Rule 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
Don’t become old news. Be flexible. A tactic must be abandoned before it becomes stale.
Rule 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. Keep changing the rules, no matter how nonsensical they are. Turn your enemy’s sense of ethics and morality into a liability.
Rule 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
Use psychological intimidation as much as possible. Create in your opponent a constant fear of attack.
Rule 10: “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign. Consolidate your power base by securing major players whose positions of power are projected by your agenda (or vice-versa).
Rule 11: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes accepted as truth. When possible gain public sympathy by inciting violence on the other side. The public will sympathize with the perceived underdog.
Rule 12: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem – even a false solution.
Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
Be concise and relentless. The ends are the means. Use the enemy’s logic against him. Cut off the support network and isolate the target. Go after people and not institutions; it is easier and more effective to hurt people, then the institutions will crumble on their own.
Dedication inside the front cover of the book Rules for Radicals
Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.
— Saul Alinsky