It is a matter of no small amusement for the journalist and agitator Nicholas von Hoffman that his beloved mentor, Saul Alinsky, learned the craft of “organizing” at the feet of Chicago’s most notorious mobsters. This was nearly eighty years before the self-proclaimed radical became a household name, having posthumously inspired an up-and-coming organizer who went on to become the forty-fourth president of the United States. Alinsky’s entrée to the Al Capone gang (which, tellingly, he called a “public utility”) was neither his ruthlessness nor his penchant for rabble-rousing, though a surfeit of both qualities surely impressed his friend Frank (“the Enforcer”) Nitti. It was, instead, his academic credentials.

A freshly minted doctor of criminology from the University of Chicago, Alinsky sought out, bonded with, and closely studied anti-social types. His experience...

 

A Message from the Editors

Our past successes are owed to our greatest ambassadors: our readers. Our future rests on your support, as The New Criterion Editor Roger Kimball explains. Will you help us continue to bring our incisive review of the arts and culture to the next generation of readers?

Popular Right Now