Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bosom Buddy Books: The Prince and the Radical

 Adam C. Zern discusses two books he feels should always be read together - The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli and Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky:

Sometimes there are books which are so closely affiliated in some way they deserve to be read in connection with one another.  Keep in mind, I'm not referring to sequels, prequels, or spin-offs.  Rather, I'm referring to books written by different authors but usually on similar subjects or narratives which enhance and complement one another so well it would be a shame to have read one but neglected the other. 

Take, for example, Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince and Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.  As I was pondering these types of 'pairings' among books this pair immediately came to mind.  In fact, Saul Alinsky said explicitly at the beginning of his book: 'The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power.  Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.'  Rules for Radicals and The Prince are, in my opinion, must-read books for anyone interested in political science, politics in general, or the nature of political power.  Power is the central thesis of both books—how to get it, how to keep it, how to take it from others.  The Prince's focus on political rulers maintaining power is complemented greatly by Alinsky's focus on the impotent obtaining power.  One realizes very, very quickly the alluring nature of power and why a person or group seeks to achieve it, regardless of their current level of political influence, social status, or wealth.

The Prince is incredibly topical and provides insights that hold up extremely well today.  Human nature is human nature regardless of which point in history we're discussing and The Prince reveals as much.  Rules for Radicals reveals that human nature is human nature regardless of our class in society.  Both books also reveal an informative ethical outlook and a certain set of principles.  I derisively call it 'unprincipled principles,' and I think Alinsky and Machiavelli would agree with me.  The point is power, not morality or ethics.  Having read both books, I believe I understand both authors' reasoning to a greater extent than if I had read only one or the other.  The two books should be seen as companions. 

If you have read The Prince, then don't miss the chance to read Rules for Radicals.  If you have read Rules for Radicals, then don't miss the chance to read The Prince.  If you have read neither, then plan on reading both at some point instead of just one of them.  Separated by hundreds of years and myriad of political intrigues and machinations, it's staggering to see within both books how universal the nature of power is and how little mankind has progressed in handling it."

Other Topics of Interest:
What Every High School Student Should Read but Probably Doesn't
Reflections: Democracy in America
Reflections: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

1 comment:

  1. Another two books best read together would be "Night" and "Man's Search for Meaning." Two men go into Hitler's concentration camps and have very different reactions to very similar circumstances.