The Intellectual Underpinnings of Nonviolence

Gene Sharp died last week. What Sun Tzu and Clausewitz were to war, Sharp, who was 90, was to nonviolent struggle — strategist, philosopher, guru. An American academic who worked from his modest Boston home, Sharp studied and cataloged examples of nonviolent resistance, looking at why they succeeded or failed.

Sharp’s major contribution was to demonstrate that nonviolent struggle is not only effective, it’s superior to armed struggle in most circumstances. Nonviolent action is not an appeal to a dictator’s conscience. It is a war, but fought without arms.

Sharp’s first work, “The Politics of Nonviolent Action,” a three-volume series published in 1973, lists 198 tactics that movements use. Marches and parades are just two. The other 196 include holding mock awards ceremonies, staying home from work, skywriting, rude gestures, suspending sports matches, performing guerrilla theater, staging work slowdowns — even withholding sex.

Read more from Tina Rosenberg, writing for the NYTimes



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