Not the first time I have blogged about him, but the Arab Spring brough Gene Sharp to the fore in a way that hasn’t happened so visibly since the Balkan War of the 1990s. He is someone on your need-to-know list because he explains the dimensions of power in a way that is nearly unprecedented–and incredibly threatening to dictatorships:
Unlike Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., whom Sharp admired (Coretta Scott King wrote an introduction to one of Sharp’s books), he is not a practitioner of nonviolent movements but rather a theorist of power. People assume positions of power, he asserts, not by some intrinsic individual strength but solely by the populace who puts them there. When enough people withdraw their support of a repressive regime for long enough, it topples. His work is not based on religious belief or higher moral principles of peaceful human coexistence but rather is starkly pragmatic: his seminal 1973 trilogy, “The Politics of Nonviolent Action,” lays out 198 methods of resistance that do not kill or destroy, including “sick-ins,” mock elections and the refusal to use government currency. He writes that “exhortations in favor of love and nonviolence have made little or no contribution to ending war and major political violence. It seemed to me that only adoption of a substitute type of sanction and struggle . . . could possibly lead to a major reduction of political violence.” Violence, Sharp says, is “your enemy’s best weapon.” Dictators will only try to crush rebellions.