The Quiet American – The New York Times

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.

via The Quiet American – The New York Times.


3 thoughts on “The Quiet American – The New York Times”

  1. I found this article really interesting. It goes into depth about Gene Sharp’s life and influence to his nonviolent protests. I find more interesting this research that he has done. He spent all of his life studying and researching how to protest a regime without violence, and it has worked and will continue to work. I had no idea that this research had been done. I am now curious to know what are some of the nonviolent protests Sharp discusses that he finds work well in taking down regimes? I agree with him that these nonviolent regimes are more meaningful and work more efficiently than do violence. It is better to save lives than to start civil wars and unrest.
    Here is a brief summary on wikipedia of his “From Dictatorship to Democracy” essay.

  2. After reading this article, I was impressed by two things. First, Mr. Sharp’s determination to find the truth. It is refreshing to read about someone who seems to just want to know how the world works. So many people, even well-known academics, look for facts in order to prove their pre-conceived biases rather than taking facts and making judgments based upon them. The second thing that impressed me in this article is the amount of people that are willing to use non-violent movements. It must be extremely tempting to fight back against an oppressive regime with violence. In order for a nonviolent movement to succeed, I imagine that it would take a lot of self-discipline. I tend to believe that most people do not exercise great amounts of self-discipline but, as was explained in the article, many revolutionary movements are using Sharp’s findings to conduct nonviolent revolutions. I’m impressed, Sharp has not only expanded an academic field significantly, but also provided a lot of people with a way to change their world.

  3. This article took me back to the good ol’ days of American Heritage and reading “Civil Disobedience.” Civil Disobedience was written by Henry David Thoreau and is perhaps the first document suggesting nonviolent means of over protesting and toppling governments. He explores the idea that people should not just wait passively for an opportunity to vote for justice, because voting for justice is as ineffective as wishing for justice; what you need to do is to actually be just. This is not to say that you have an obligation to devote your life to fighting for justice, but you do have an obligation not to commit injustice and not to give injustice your practical support.

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