Saul Alinsky's 11 rules on "the ethics of means and ends"

Alinsky's list of 13 tactics for community organizing have gotten more press lately, but his 11 rules on means and ends are just as thought-provoking:
  1. One's concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one's personal interest in the issue.
  2. The judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment
  3. In war the ends justify almost any means
  4. Judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
  5. Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
  6. The less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.
  7. Generally success or failure is a might determinant of ethics.
  8. Morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
  9. Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.
  10. You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.
  11. Goals must be phrased in general terms like "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," "Of the Common Welfare," "Pursuit of Happiness," or "Bread and Peace."
Alinky's intelligence, his pragmatism, and his impulse to describe things as they are remind me of Niccolo Machiavelli.

Source: Alinsky's 1971 book titled Rules for Radicals

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. Saves me searching.

    BTW: Great display name. I lived in NYC for almost 10 years, part of which was in Hell's Kitchen, in the Mid-50s west of Broadway.

    Used to spend time in Central Park. I remember when I first found the statue of Balto. It's just splendid. And Balto's story is inspiring.

    Best wishes.