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Power and Struggle (Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part 1) [Paperback]

by Gene Sharp, Marina Finkelstein, Thomas C. Schelling
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)


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Book Description

June 2, 1973 087558070X 978-0875580708
Power And Struggle begins with an examination of political power. It is often assumed that power derives from violence and can be controlled only by greater violence. Actually, power derives from sources in the society which may be restricted or severed by withdrawal of cooperation by the populace. The political power of governments may in fact be very fragile. Even the power of dictators may be destroyed by withdrawal of the human assistance which made the regime possible. Nonviolent action is based on that insight.


Product Details

  • Series: Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part 1
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Porter Sargent Publishers (June 2, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087558070X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875580708
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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93 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book could change your mind about nonviolence September 10, 2004
Format:Paperback
As a military officer I studied and implemented violence for twenty-six years. Thanks to the movie "Friendly Persuasion" and my introduction to Quakers, I began to wonder if there wasn't a better way. That eventually brought me to Gene Sharp's book.

The first volume is rather short and summarizes. It is well worth the read. The second volume is rather dull from a reading standpoint but very necessary. Probably only an academe or tactician could really get enthused about it. The third volume is a good read. I found it very informative and useful.

Before reading this book, my answer to peaceniks would have been that the only true peace was that of the battlefield -- when everything is quiet and dead. I imaged nonviolence as capitulation. Now I see it as conflict by other means: a means of struggle requiring high courage, strict discipline, and thoughtful strategy.

I believe that two conditions are required for nonviolence to succeed: 1) there must be sufficient information flow between the populations of the nonviolent group and the aggressor group, and 2) some proportion of the aggressor group must be able to identify with members of the nonviolent group. If news of the struggle never circulates, bureaucracy can structure violence to continue indefinitely; if the aggressors see others as less than animals, the violence will also continue without end.

In violent struggle at least 50% of the participants lose. Sometimes the costs are so high that everybody loses. In nonviolent struggle, at most 50% of the participants lose and often not so severely. Sometimes both sides seem to come out ahead.

Emotionally, I'm still very much in touch with the hubris of violence. Intellectually, nonviolence offers strategies and approaches not otherwise available. Both those who extol nonviolence and those who denigrate it as folly should read this book. Otherwise, I think they speak from the most desperate ignorance.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REQUIRED READING FOR ALL! March 2, 2001
Format:Paperback
Gene Sharp's The Politics of Nonviolent Action is a landmark study of nonviolence in three volumes: Power and Struggle, The Methods of Nonviolent Action, and The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action. Power and Struggle begins with an analysis of the nature of political power. Sharp, Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution, reveals that political power is not intrinsic to rulers but derives exclusively from citizens. Thus political power requires social support. And therein lies the key to nonviolent action: "Political power disintegrates when people withdraw their obedience and support" (pg. 63). Next Sharp attempts to correct some common "misconceptions" about nonviolence. Among these corrections, he insists: "Success with nonviolent action does not require (though it may be helped by) shared standards and principles, a high degree of community of interests, or a high degree of psychological closeness between contending groups" (pg. 71). Finally, Sharp outlines a brief history of nonviolent action, from plebeian noncooperation in ancient Rome to modern movements like the Czechoslovakian civilan resistance of 1968. Power and Stuggle is an important step in the study of nonviolent political change and an indispensable reference for its practice.However, many scholars and activists criticize Sharp's otherwise execellent model for its deevaluation of nonviolence's spiritual dimension. All societies will inevitably require change not only at the political level, but also the social. And to believe political change will, in turn, affect a social change is to deny Sharp's model of political power, which states that the political power of states resides in their citizens. Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time to upgrade? March 1, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dr. Gene Sharp was born 21 January 1928 and wrote this book already in 1973. Sharp became world's foremost expert on Non Violent Action (NVA). His work slipped across borders and was searched for by secret policemen all over the world. Many autocrats don't like him because of his books, which are translated in many languages. His work still plays an important role in about every revolt or revolution. Even the "2011 Arab Spring" revolts. Sharp was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but Barack Obama received it.

This book - "part 1" of a series of three - is dealing about the theory of nonviolent action, part 2 is the cookbook while part 3 is more about tactics. I find part 1 and 3 the most interesting to read. Part 1 is an excellent and essential read and a real eye-opener that makes you understand that NVA is just another means of combat, as is war. NVA is not pacifism. NVA has got all the elements of warfare: "weapons", tactics, strategy, courage, hierarchy, discipline and sacrifice. It just isn't violent. However - after 38 successful years - these book-series might need an upgrade. Modern warfare is not what it used to be in the seventies and so is NVA. These series highlights NVA as a methodology that can be used by the oppressed, however NVA can be used by the oppressor too. Unfortunately these series are not really focusing on NVA techniques and tactics that could be used by the oppressor. In the old days autocrats used simple propaganda like Radio/TV-spots, slogans, billboards and statues of the dictator as means of NVA. Modern propaganda or PSYOPS is much more sophisticated. The role of modern mass media has become much more important since the seventies, so has the power of (International) public opinion.
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