The Alinsky Center


Saul Alinsky was a radical humanitarian — radical as in “from the root,” not extremist.  Alinsky’s work was one of exalting human dignity:

“In the end he [the organizer] has one conviction–a belief that if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions.  The alternative to this would be rule by the elite–either a dictatorship or some form of a political aristocracy.

“Believing in people, the radical has the job of organizing them so they will have the power and opportunity to best meet each unforeseeable future crisis as they move ahead in their eternal search for those values of equality, justice, freedom, peace, a deep concern for the preciousness of human life, and all those rights and values propounded by Judaeo-Christianity and the democratic political tradition.”

 — Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, 1971, pp. 11 – 12

“The democratic ideal springs from the ideas of liberty, equality, majority rule through free elections, protection of the rights of minorities, and freedom to subscribe to multiple loyalties in matters of religion, economics, and politics rather than to a total loyalty to the state.  The spirit of democracy is the idea of importance and worth in the individual, and faith in the kind of world where the individual can achieve as much of his potential as possible. …

“We are not here concerned with people who profess the democratic faith but yearn for the dark security of dependency where they can be spared the burden of decisions.  Reluctant to grow up, or incapable of doing so, they want to remain children and be cared for by others.  Those who can should be encouraged to grow; for the others, the fault lies not in the system but in themselves.” 

— Rules for Radicals, p. xxiv – xxv

Alinsky’s tactical rules have become renowned to the point of becoming nearly legendary. Alinsky’s ethics, of even greater significance, remain vastly under-recognized and under-appreciated.  A young woman writing her honors thesis on Alinsky in 1969 observed and deplored this dissociation:

“Some New Left strategists …, although, disenchanted with Alinsky-like faith in individuals, apply many of his tactics in confrontation politics.

The problems inherent in such an approach, including elitist arrogance and repressive intolerance, have become evident during recent university crises.”


The mission of the Alinsky Center is to recognize and create a forum for the philosophies of humanitarians of all races, colors, creeds, faiths, and national origins, women and men, young and old, ordinary and elite in the cause of human dignity.

We learn, when we respect the dignity of the people, that they cannot be denied the elementary right to participate fully in the solutions to their own problems. Self-respect arises when individuals play an active role in solving their own crises and who are not helpless, passive, puppet-like recipients of private or public services. To give people help … is not giving but taking — taking their dignity.

 — Rules for Radicals, pp. 122 – 3

David Alinsky, Chairman, the Alinsky Center

Ralph Benko, President, the Alinsky Center


cc Photo Bob Jagendorf


David Alinsky, Chairman, the Alinsky Center

Ralph Benko, President, the Alinsky Center

saul alinsky

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