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

Gene Sharp


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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
97 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book could change your mind about nonviolence 10 Sep 2004
By Thomas E. Sandidge - Published on Amazon.com
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.
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REQUIRED READING FOR ALL! 3 Mar 2001
By Michael Patrick McCully - Published on Amazon.com
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. Therefore, in order to affect social change it becomes necessary to utilize methods of "shared standards and principles," that is, to utilize the spiritual dimension of nonviolent action. Indeed the required depth of spirituality appears proportionaly equal to the depth of social change to be affected. If government is the will of the people manifest, then the nonviolent activist must change the will of the people, not the government. When viewed in this light we see why both Gandhi's and King's movements ultimately failed. Both successfuly affected political change but were assassinated before social change could be completed. Thus the strained relations between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent and the remaining emotional segregation between blacks and whites in our own nation.Is then the aim of nonviolence not to change the politics but the people, or will Sharp's model work to successfully affect social change?
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time to upgrade? 1 Mar 2011
By Pescador de Caña - Published on Amazon.com
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. Mass media can be censored (like in North Korea), self-censored (like in Colombia) or manipulated by the authorities (or activists). Modern International mass media can also suffer from inaccuracies because of lack of moneys to investigate properly or the urge to publish ASAP. Disinformation can be used in many smart ways. Think for instance of the state-employed bloggers and commenters that defend the state's policies on Internet forums in China. Mobile phone services including text messaging are often temporarily discontinued by the authorities of the oppressor during demonstrations, trying to sabotage coordination of the activists. Mobile operators are ordered by the same authorities to rat out all demonstrators. All people who visited demonstrations are known to the police by tracing their mobile phone location. They call on these numbers and invite people to come for a "conversation" about the events. This has happened in Iran more than once. Autocrats often try to organize their own (bigger) pro-demonstrations the next day. In countries like Israel video cameras with facial recognition software are used to identify activists during demonstrations and riots. Facebook is helping these authorities by using facial recognition software that puts name tags to all of Facebook's pictures. Intelligence agencies of the oppressor can also sabotage NVAs of the activists in a nonviolent manner. Think of infiltration in activist organizations and manipulation of activists.

Never the less modern mass media can also largely facilitate the oppressed in their NVAs, co-ordinations and organization. Think of blogs, tweets, social networks, text messaging, encrypted Skype conversations, movies and pictures made and published by the populace and so on. Authorities try to prevent this by identifying and tracing the activists on the Internet and censoring the Internet.

If you feel attracted by the idea of non-violent action, visit the website of The Albert Einstein Institution (aeinstein.org), founded in 1983 by Dr. Gene Sharp. You can download many free publications about the subject in many languages.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be ripped off! 24 Feb 2011
By Robert J Mabrito - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Don't be ripped off. You can still buy ALL THREE of the volumes from the Albert Einstein Institue for under $30.

These are EXCELLENT works, but don't pay these ridiculous prices!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of this book 29 May 2005
By T. bailey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the video "Bringing Down A Dictator," Miljenko Derata, the director of a Belgrade group called Civic Initiatives, explains how he received funding from the US human rights organization, Freedom House, to print and distribute 5,000 copies of Gene Sharp's book, From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. OTPOR also got hold of Sharp's main three-volume work, ''The Politics of Nonviolent Action.'' They translated this into a Serbian language notebook, which was called the ''OTPOR User Manual.''
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