query: Saul Alinsky and Jane Addams

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Fri Oct 31 08:20:43 CDT 2008

[ed:  please feel welcomed to Emily/Walter's query.  A bit from me below.]

From: <walter at noacentral.org>

A NOA supporter asked me to post this on Comm-Org on her behalf. You can 
reply here and you can also reach her at (Emily Kimball) 
etkimball at aol.com -- her email included at her request.

"I wrote a letter to our paper defending community organizers who have 
been maligned in this political campaign.  Several people wrote 
objecting to the tactics of Saul Alinsky.  I worked as a CO and he was 
my bible.  I am looking to find if there was a connection between Saul 
and Jane Addams.  I mentioned both in my letter and people wrote to say 
Jane Addams was a Quaker and would never have used Saul's methods and I 
shouldn't mention them in the same breath.  I am looking for history 
here.  What was the relationship of Saul Alinsky and Jane Addams in the 
work that they were doing.  I want to answer this letter but don't have 
enough facts." Emily Kimball

Posted by Walter Davis, Executive Director of the National Orgnaizers 
www.noacentral.org             Jobs in Organizing: 


[ed:  the most interesting paper I've found on the topic is at 
http://www.philosophy.uncc.edu/mleldrid/SAAP/MSU/P04R.html, and it .  
But aside from that, my own thoughts are that people perhaps make more 
of the differences than they should.  It is clear that Alinsky focused 
on conflict and Addams focused on consensus, but few Alinsky's ever did 
anything even approaching violence.  And Addams was not shy about 
supporting her community's members to raise their voices.  It may be as 
much about gender than anything else.  It is not even clear that Addams 
was a Quaker.  I would have to do a lot more research to be sure, but 
from what I've gathered, she had a Quaker background, but belonged to a 
Presbyterian church and attended a Unitarian church. Others?  I am also 
concerned about how many people are objecting to the use of 
confrontation and direct action these days, even when it is becoming 
increasingly apparent that those who have benefited from the skewed 
rules are not going to give up their unfair advantage without a really 
dirty fight.  It may also be the result of the passage of time that 
confrontation and conflict are so easily equated with violence and 
antagonism. Or it may just be politics. I have personally always found 
confrontation to be the most honest form of communication, even when it 
is used on me.  :-)]

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