Honing Nonviolence as a Political Weapon

By Schaeffer-Duffy, Claire | National Catholic Reporter, October 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

Honing Nonviolence as a Political Weapon


Schaeffer-Duffy, Claire, National Catholic Reporter


When Gene Sharp was attending high school in Ohio, World War II was just finishing, Stalin was in control of the Soviet Union, colonialism was strong, and nuclear weapons were new. Even as a teenager, Sharp was aware of the world's big problems and as he puts it, he wanted to see what could be done about them. He worked as secretary to American pacifist A.J. Muste, spent nine months in prison as a conscientious objector to the Korean War, and after obtaining a master's in sociology from Ohio State University and a doctorate in political science from Oxford University, he went on to become the world's foremost nonviolent strategist.

Once dubbed the "Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare," Sharp, 77, has spent the last five decades researching and promoting the application of nonviolent methods to some of the world's biggest problems. People can, he says, resist an occupation, prevent an internal takeover of their government, and even cause a dictatorship to disintegrate without tiring a shot.

A former chair of the sociology department at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and research fellow at Harvard University, Sharp is an indefatigable and prolific analyst. Over the past four decades he has written more than a dozen books and numerous articles on the theory and strategy of nonviolent action, including Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential, published earlier this year.

Although Sharp has written extensively on political power, you are more likely to find one of his essays or books in a cafe in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev or a Burmese refugee tent along the Thai border than in the political science curriculum at an American university. Labeled seditious by repressive regimes, his writings have guided pro-democracy activists in disparate corners of the world, including the Middle East, the Baltic states, Eastern Europe, Burma and the Tibetan diaspora.

Colleagues of Sharp say he is no peacemaker. Nor should he be cast as an advocate of conflict resolution, for he promotes "nonviolent disruption" and writes about ways to seize power from repressive regimes. But the scholar of people power is a revolutionary without a gun who has taken the killing out of political conflict.

"[His] approach attracts people who are otherwise turned off by peaceniks, people who participate in their own liberation," said Bob Helvey, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former research fellow with Sharp at Harvard.

Sharp preaches a muscular nonviolence, defining nonviolent struggles as a political technique. It is not to be confused with an abstention from violence based on ethical or religious beliefs. War has persisted, he maintains, because people believed military means were all they had "to prevent aggression and fight off attackers. One needed a substitute."

For Sharp, that "substitute" is strategic nonviolence, and his appreciation for its viability came early in his academic career. In the late 1950s, while at the University of Oslo, Norway, Sharp researched the unarmed resistance of Norwegian teachers to the Nazis. He documented 65 methods of nonviolent action. His list' eventually grew to 198 methods and was included in the second book of his three-volume 1973 work, The Politics of Nonviolent Action.

In 1983, Sharp founded the Albert Einstein Institution to promote the study and use of nonviolent action. A brochure for the nonprofit pointed out that unlike military warfare, which is "predicated on the rigorous study of past battles and supported by billions of dollars worth of military infrastructure and weapons," nonviolent struggles had to rely on "anecdotal information, political manifestos or just plain guesswork." The institution sought to fill the information gap. Operating out of a sparsely furnished two-room office in downtown Boston, Sharp and his colleagues wrote books and articles on the methods of nonviolent action, disseminating their work to distant countries via mail or the Internet. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Honing Nonviolence as a Political Weapon
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.