Gene Sharp: The Most Influential American Thinker on Non-Violent Struggle You’ve Never Heard Of
While the rolling revolution in the Middle East continues with Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya, buoyed by the success of Egypt and Tunisia, one unassuming American figure is emerging as providing the inspiration for a range of tactics used by Arab organizers. His name is Gene Sharp, he lives in Boston, and you’ve probably never heard of him. Considered “the godfather of the nonviolent resistance,” Gene Sharp has spent decades studying with the care and methods of a scientist, major and minor revolutions and uprisings the world over. In his 1973 magnum opus, The Politics of Non-Violent Action, Sharp explored in great detail, the principles that help non-violent resistance work, especially in the overthrowing of dictatorships by organized populations. The 900 page book also lists nearly 200 methods of non-violent action culled from his studies. Since then Sharp has authored a number of books and booklets with titles like “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” and “There are Realistic Alternatives,” which have been translated into dozens of languages and used worldwide. His latest book is the 600 page work “Waging Non-Violent Struggle.” Gene Sharp spent 30 years as a political scientist at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs. He remains dedicated to the study of peace and nonviolent struggle through the efforts of The Albert Einstein Institution, a nonprofit group he created in 1983. However, over the years his work has garnered criticism from various factions, even on the left. A few years ago the Albert Einstein Institution was accused of being a U.S. government sponsored organization to overthrow foreign regimes. Stephen Zunes, a Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and frequent Uprising guest wrote a lengthy refutation of these charges in 2008. Most recently Arab American commentator Asad Abu Khalil commented on Gene Sharp’s rising stature by accusing Americans of looking for a “Lawrence of Arabia” figure to take credit away from Egyptian protesters. Still, many reports now suggest that Gene Sharp’s work inspired, not the cause of revolution, but the tactics used by organizers in Egypt and elsewhere. Gene Sharp was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.
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