On the Edge (book)

On the Edge (book)
On the Edge  
Hardcover Edition
Hardcover ed.
Author(s) Dennis Tourish, Tim Wohlforth
Country United States
Language English
Subject(s) cults, political cults, politics
Genre(s) non-fiction
Publisher M.E. Sharpe
Publication date September 2000
Media type Hardcover
Pages 246
ISBN ISBN 0765606399 ,
ISBN 978-0765606396
OCLC Number 43434639
Dewey Decimal 303.48/4 21
LC Classification HN17 .T69 2000

On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left is a non-fiction book about political cults, written by Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth.


Main points

On the Edge discusses the role of 'cults' and political cults in politics, as well as describing some of the history involving individuals such as Lyndon LaRouche and Fred Newman. Other individuals and groups discussed include Marlene Dixon, the Christian Identity movement, Posse Comitatus, Re-evaluation Counseling, Synanon, and Aryan Nation.[1] Additionally, the book discusses actions of Trotskyist groups in the United Kingdom particularly those led by Ted Grant and Gerry Healy.

Cited by other works

The book is cited by Janja Lalich's book, Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships,[2] as well as Tourish's Key Issues in Organizational Communication,[3] Saliba's Understanding New Religious Movements,[4] Lalich's Bounded Choice,[5] and Hargie's Skilled Interpersonal Communication.[6]

On the Edge is also cited in academic articles in Human Relations,[7] Leadership,[8] Contemporary British History,[9] and the International Journal of Project Management.[10]


Tourish is a professor of business management at Aberdeen Business School[11] and was a member of the Irish wing of Militant Tendency from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.[12] Wohlforth is the author of The Prophet's Children: Travels on the American Left (1995) about his experiences in American Trotskyism from the 1950s through the 1970s; he is also an author of detective fiction.[13] He was the leader from the middle 1960s to the middle 1970s of a U.S. Trotskyist group, the Workers League, which was affiliated with the U.K.-based Workers Revolutionary Party (one of the groups profiled in On the Edge).[12]


In his review [12] of On the Edge, Bob Pitt, editor of the online Marxist journal WhatNext and a former member of one of the groups profiled in the book, the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), stated that the "central purpose of the book is to mount a slanderous attack on the revolutionary left, which often goes further than anything you might read in even the most anti-socialist sections of the bourgeois press." Pitt describes the authors as "two embittered former members of far left groups." [12]

Pitt states that the authors "seem immune to the idea that far left sects – even the most cult-like – can occasionally play some kind of progressive role in wider society." [12]

In the same review, however, Pitt stated that in the case of one leftist group profiled in the book, his own former WRP, "there are grounds for viewing it as a type of cult. It featured a ruthlessly authoritarian internal regime presided over by an all-powerful, all-knowing leader, who maintained his position by subjecting cadres to psychological manipulation and physical and sexual abuse." Pitt also termed the Lyndon LaRouche organization an "actual cult."

In 2003, WhatNext? republished the 1998 article by Tourish from the Cultic Studies Journal which had served as the basis for the chapter of On the Edge on one of the leaders of Militant Tendency, Ted Grant (The Lonely Passion of Ted Grant). Pitt criticized this On the Edge chapter in his review by stating: "When it comes to the Militant Tendency, the authors’ attempt to apply the cult paradigm breaks down. A moment’s consideration would reveal that the notion of Ted Grant presiding over a regime comparable to Healy’s is laughable." [12]

The What Next? reprint [14] of Tourish included a lengthy new introduction by him defending On the Edge and stating: "Some people have objected to the term "cult", even if they agreed with the substantive points that the paper makes about the [Militant Tendency's] internal regime. This is unfortunate. The word cult is not a term of abuse, as this paper tries to explain. It is nothing more than a shorthand expression for a particular set of practices that have been observed in a variety of dysfunctional organisations.[15]"

Nevertheless, Pitt argues that Tourish's application of the word cult "expands the definition of the term to the point where it becomes pretty well useless."[12]


  1. ^ Official site, M.E. Sharpe, ISBN 978-0-7656-0639-6 , retrieved 3/21/07.
  2. ^ Janja Lalich, Take Back Your Life (book), ISBN 0972002154 , ISBN 978-0972002158 , May 30, 2006.
  3. ^ Tourish, Dennis; Owen Hargie (2004). Key Issues in Organizational Communication. Routledge. pp. 290. ISBN 0415260930. 
  4. ^ Saliba, John A. (2003). Understanding New Religious Movements. Rowman Altamira. pp. 40. ISBN 0759103569. 
  5. ^ Lalich, Janja. Bounded Choice. University of California Press. pp. 313. ISBN 0520231945. 
  6. ^ Hargie, Owen; David Dickson (2004). Skilled Interpersonal Communication: research, theory and practice. Routledge. pp. 500. ISBN 0415227194. 
  7. ^ "Transformational leadership, corporate cultism and the spirituality paradigm: An unholy trinity in the workplace?", Tourish, University of Aberdeen, Pinnington, University of Queensland, Human Relations, Vol. 55, No. 2, 147-172 (2002).
  8. ^ "Charismatic Leadership and Corporate Cultism at Enron: The Elimination of Dissent, the Promotion of Conformity and Organizational Collapse", Tourish, Vatcha, Leadership, Vol. 1, No. 4, 455-480 (2005).
  9. ^ "CND's Cold War", Mark Phythian, ISSN 1361-9462, Contemporary British History, Volume 15, Number 3, P. 133-156, Fall 2001.
  10. ^ "The impact of Puritan ideology on aspects of project management", International Journal of Project Management, Whitty, Schulz, University of Queensland, May 24, 2006.
  11. ^ [1], Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University, profile, Professor Dennis Tourish, retrieved 3/25/07.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "Cults, Sects and the Far Left" reviewed by Bob Pitt, What Next? ISSN 1479-4322 No. 17, 2000 online
  13. ^ Home page, Tim Wohlforth, Writer, retrieved 3/25/07.
  14. ^ "Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism and Cultism: A Case Study", Dennis Tourish, What Next? ISSN 1479-4322, online
  15. ^ "Introduction to ‘Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism and Cultism’", Dennis Tourish, What Next? ISSN 1479-4322, online.

External links

See also

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