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Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Like many powerful books, Non-violence is a slim volume that states a single point and states it clearly. Mark Kurlansky retells world history from the point of view of those who tried to resist their oppressors non-violently.

Kurlansky carefully disects the idea of a 'just war', the predicate of so many conflicts for hundreds of years, rendering it meaningless and unworthy. He then tries to expose the myth that non-violent protest is doomed to failure. He persuasively argues that an aggressor's main chance of defeating non-violent resistence is to force those resisting to abandon their principles and take up arms. He suggests that if the non-violent remain so, they are unassailable. This is a clearly written and well researched polemic, which should be compulsory reading for anybody considering becoming a head of state. Perhaps if more did so the world would be a happier, less violent place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2013
This man is the prophet in the wilderness. Any of his books are extraordinary to read. After reading them - and I recommend them all, especially this one and 'History of Salt' - you will realise that all University history departments have constructed an artificial parallel universe. Read this book, and then think about 'History' again! It will never be the same!
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2006
'Nonviolence' discusses the concept of non-violence as an alternative to Pacificism and violent action.

In this book Kurlansky attacks the totems of the pro-war/violence movements and examines the validity of their examples (such as the US Civil War, WWII and the Holocaust). In doing so he forms a very compelling argument for non-violent activties to bring about social change.

This book is a very easy read and should be required reading for everyone above the age of 12. Five easily earned stars!
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on 22 April 2013
This is a very well-written, thought-provoking book from one of the best (and most overlooked!) living non-fiction authors.

I had read the majority of the Mark Kurlansky's previous works but this one is quite different. The central theme of non-violence is surprisingly controversial, given how sensible it might seem, and the arguments are both persuasive and engrossing. Perhaps it sounds a bit over the top to say this changed the way I viewed things, but I believe it did in some small way.

I've actually bought a few copies over the years to give as gifts and every recipient has enjoyed it. No doubt the book will be enjoyed most by those who share Kurlansky's views, but really it's a book for everyone.
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on 24 December 2014
This was a book recommend in our Book club. I've no idea what Kurlansky is advocating because if it's that non violence is a preferred alternative to wars then obviously but history proves that it's not the case. Whether it was the West occupying the Americas, India or Africa, the indigenous peoples were slaughtered for their land and resources. Non violence was never an option. He implies that non violence in Denmark saved thousands of jews and similar action may have change their fate in France, Poland,etc. A really stupid suggestion !! There are other flaws of thinking throughout the book, a book I would have thrown in the bin if it hadn't been on my Kindle !! Absolute Rubbish.
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on 8 May 2014
I read this book a few years ago and it was the opening of my understanding of nonviolence as a force rather than as passivity. I am now recommending it highly to my younger sister who is grappling with arguments of violent war, just war and how the hell people solve war-like conflicts without killing.

An excellent read, well structured and with easy language that breaks down the arguments and asks questions of its own arguments.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2010
I really enjoyed this book and most people should learn something here. The author traces the history of nonviolent resistance from ancient China up to the world we live in today and supports his arguments well with plenty of examples from history. One major aim is to debunk the "just war", with some focus on the American Civil War (which was not fought to free the slaves) and the Second World War (which was not fought to save the Jews).

What I missed was an examination of whether nonviolence could be an absolute position or whether there exist circumstances where violence is justified. I found myself agreeing with the author on most of the examples he explores but was left with a few unanswered questions. For example, whether internationally-sanctioned military action (e.g. by the UN) could be justified, and whether nonviolence really is hopeless against some opponents, for example those that view you as sub-human. In the Second World War, as the author argues, the Danes successfully rescued their Jewish population from the Nazis by concerted non-violent action but it seems doubtful to me if the Jews themselves would have succeeded doing this without the support of the wider population.
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on 10 December 2014
An incredibly inspiring and information-packed book, with an argument that is presented engagingly and with pace. I've just finished it and expect to be reading it again soon.

Don't buy from Amazon though. It doesn't pay tax. Find an independent online book shop :).
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on 19 January 2015
Recommended by my sister, I would highly recommend this book to others. Gives you the back ground to things you know about and an understanding of how we are not learning quick enough from our mistakes. A thought provoking read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2010
An unputdownable book, for high-school students and historians alike.

Readers in India and Asia (and boy, are there many!), more familiar with the Gandhi episode in this much longer story, will find it specially interesting. Given the anti-British tone of the story in India, many don't suspect how rich the history of non-violence has been in Europe and the United States, before Gandhi, though students may be vaguely familiar with some like Thoreau ('Civil Disobedience', 'Unto This Last') and Tolstoy as having influenced Gandhi.

It is considered normal that important books (some religions have one, 'THE Book' - Bible, Torah, Koran) be read again and again, indeed every passages learnt by heart and commented over centuries. I look forward to a time when books like 'Non-Violence, A Dangerous Idea' would be by one's bedside, to be read again and again, not just for the learning but for the galvanizing energy and inspiration.

If you're inspired enough by it to want to act, see our students' proposal for a day of joint world-wide action, at 'Ahimsa Online'. This Paris proposal, for an International Day of Non-Violence, was brought to the Bombay WSF(World Social Forum, 2004) by Iranian Peace Nobel Shirin Ebadi, and finally adopted 3 years later by the UN General Assembly in 2007 (though the Indian minister proposed not January 30th, day of Gandhi's assassination, but October 2nd, his day of birth). Full of promise, it will remain an tame occasion for speeches by politicians, unless imaginative people turn it into something more 'dangerous'.
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