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Gene Sharp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gene Sharp

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Gene Sharp (born 21 January 1928) is known for his extensive writings on nonviolent struggle: he has been called both the "Machiavelli of nonviolence" and the "Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare."[1]

Sharp received a B.A. and an M.A. from Ohio State University and a PhD. in political theory from Oxford University. He is Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He held a research appointment at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs for almost 30 years. In 1983 he founded the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization devoted to studies and promotion of the use of nonviolent action in conflicts worldwide.[2]

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Sharp's influence on struggles world-wide

Sharp's scholarship has influenced resistance organizations around the world. Most recently the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak of Egypt drew extensively on his ideas, as well as the youth movement in Tunisia and the earlier ones in the Eastern European color revolutions that had previously been inspired by Sharp's work. [3].

Sharp's handbook From Dictatorship to Democracy served as a basis for the campaigns of Serbia's Otpor (who were also directly trained by the Albert Einstein Institute), Georgia's Kmara, Ukraine's Pora, Kyrgyzstan's KelKel and Belarus' Zubr. Pora's Oleh Kyriyenko said in a 2004 interview with Radio Netherlands,

"The bible of Pora has been the book of Gene Sharp, also used by Otpor, it's called: From Dictatorship to Democracy. Pora activists have translated it by themselves. We have written to Mr Sharp and to the Albert Einstein Institute in the United States, and he became very sympathetic towards our initiative, and the Institution provided funding to print over 12,000 copies of this book for free."[4]

Sharp's writings on "Civilian-Based Defense"[5] were used by the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments during their separation from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Albert Einstein Institution's web site contains many works by Gene Sharp, in English and in over sixty translations.

The Iranian government charged protesters against alleged fraud in the 2009 elections with following Gene Sharp's tactics. The Tehran Times reported: "According to the indictment, a number of the accused confessed that the post-election unrest was preplanned and the plan was following the timetable of the velvet revolution to the extent that over 100 stages of the 198 steps of Gene Sharp were implemented in the foiled velvet revolution." [6]

Sharp's contributions to the theory of nonviolent resistance

Gene Sharp described the sources of his ideas as in-depth studies of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau to a minor degree, and other sources footnoted in his 1973 book "The Politics of Nonviolent Action", which was based on his 1968 PhD thesis.[7] In the book, he provides a pragmatic political analysis of nonviolent action as a method for applying power in a conflict.

Sharp's key theme is that power is not monolithic; that is, it does not derive from some intrinsic quality of those who are in power. For Sharp, political power, the power of any state - regardless of its particular structural organization - is derived from the subjects of the state. His fundamental belief is that any power structure is based on the subjects' obedience to the orders of the ruler(s). Therefore, if subjects do not obey, leaders have no power.

In Sharp's view all effective power structures have systems by which they encourage or extract obedience from their subjects. States have particularly complex systems for keeping subjects obedient. These systems include specific institutions (police, courts, regulatory bodies) but may also involve cultural dimensions that inspire obedience by implying that power is monolithic (the god cult of the Egyptian pharaohs, the dignity of the office of the President, moral or ethical norms and taboos). Through these systems, subjects are presented with a system of sanctions (imprisonment, fines, ostracism) and rewards (titles, wealth, fame) which influence the extent of their obedience.

This is ultimately related to nonviolent resistance because it is supposed to provide subjects with a window of opportunity for effecting change within a state. Sharp cites the insight of Étienne de La Boétie, that if the subjects of a particular state recognize that they are the source of the state's power they can refuse their obedience and their leader(s) will be left without power.

Sharp published Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential in 2005. It builds on his earlier written works by documenting case studies where non violent action has been applied, and the lessons learned from those applications, and contains information on planning nonviolent struggle to make it more effective.

For his lifelong commitment to the defense of freedom, democracy, and the reduction of political violence through scholarly analysis of the power of nonviolent action, The Peace Abbey of Sherborn, MA awarded him the Courage of Conscience award April 4, 2008.[8]

Bibliography

Making Europe Unconquerable: The Potential of Civilian-based Deterrence and Defense (see article), London: Taylor & Francis, 1985. Second Edition with a Foreword by George F. Kennan. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1986.

Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential with Joshua Paulson, Extending Horizons Books, 2005.

"From dictatorship to democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation (Pamphlet)," The Albert Einstein Institution, 2003.

Gandhi as a Political Strategist, with Essays on Ethics and Politics. Indian edition with a new Introduction by Dr. Federico Mayor. Original Introduction by Coretta Scott King, New Delhi: Gandhi Media Centre, 1999. (See 1979 edition below.)

Nonviolent Action: A Research Guide, with Ronald McCarthy, New York: Garland Publishers, 1997.

Civilian-Based Defense: A Post-Military Weapons System, with the assistance of Bruce Jenkins, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, Co-editors Walter Conser, Jr., Ronald M. McCarthy, and David J. Toscano, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1986.

National Security Through Civilian-based Defense, Omaha: Association for Transarmament Studies, 1985.

Social Power and Political Freedom, Introduction by Senator Mark O. Hatfield. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1980.

Gandhi as a Political Strategist, with Essays on Ethics and Politics, Introduction by Coretta Scott King. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1979.

The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Introduction by Thomas C. Schelling. Prepared under the auspices of Harvard University's Center for International Affairs. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973. 1974 paperback edition in 3 vols.: I, Power and Struggle. 114 pp.; II, The Methods of Nonviolent Action. 348 pp.; III, Dynamics of Nonviolent Action. 466 pp. Boston: Porter Sargent.

Exploring Nonviolent Alternatives, Introduction by David Riesman. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1970.

Civilian Defense: An Introduction, co-editors Adam Roberts and T.K. Mahadevan. Introductory statement by President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1967.

Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories, Foreword by Albert Einstein. Introduction by Bharatan Kumarappa. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1960.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Weber, Thomas. Gandhi as Disciple and Mentor. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004
  2. ^ Gene Sharp biography at Albert Einstein Institution web site).
  3. ^ KIRKPATRICK, DAVID and SANGER, DAVID (2011-02-13). "New York Times". New York Times. pp. 1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/world/middleeast/14egypt-tunisia-protests.html?hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1297656097-vGFYS7755whguQSAOstilA. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  4. ^ "Radio Netherlands". 2011-02-13. http://www.radionetherlands.nl/currentaffairs/region/easterneurope/ukr041125. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  5. ^ [See, for example, http://aeinstein.org/organizationsd7c2.html Sharp, Gene, ]Civilian-based Defense
  6. ^ [Tehran Times, August 2, 2009, http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=200033]
  7. ^ Sharp, Gene (2007-06-12). "Corrections - an open letter from Gene Sharp". Voltaire Network. Archived from the original on 2010-10-12. http://www.webcitation.org/5tQiUZymd. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
  8. ^ The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List

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Gene Sharp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia