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From Dictatorship to Democracy is virtually the handbook for (almost) peaceful overthrow of repressive regimes, the manual consulted by revolutionary leadership throughout the Middle East, from Tunis to Egypt.


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From Dictatorship to Democracy is virtually the handbook for (almost) peaceful overthrow of repressive regimes, the manual consulted by revolutionary leadership throughout the Middle East, from Tunis to Egypt.

30 review for From Dictatorship to Democracy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation by Gene Sharp is a fascinating working document on methods of non-violent disruption of dictatorial regimes. I read this in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sharp first analyzes some of the fallacies of both violent confrontation of a regime, and of negotiating with it. Violence is often damaging to a democratic movement because it often disrupts the lives of civilians and potentially alienates support for democratic forces From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation by Gene Sharp is a fascinating working document on methods of non-violent disruption of dictatorial regimes. I read this in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sharp first analyzes some of the fallacies of both violent confrontation of a regime, and of negotiating with it. Violence is often damaging to a democratic movement because it often disrupts the lives of civilians and potentially alienates support for democratic forces. Violence is also often monopolized by the ruling regime, and therefore it is difficult and unlikely that rebel forces can amass enough material, experience and tactical advantage to take on the regime in anything but a limited geographic region. Negotiations are often an issue as well; it is common for tyrants to continue holding power by using negotiations as a tactic to stall, convince and maintain some of there executive power. Negotiations also weaken the democratic movement significantly by watering down the overall objective of removing the old dictatorial regime and instituting democratic reform. Sharp advocates for non-violent disruption as the key way to take down a dictatorship. He offers practical advice on this method. First, he implores democratic forces to adopt a grand strategy in order to focus the movement and develop relevant strategies, tactics and methods for ousting a dictatorial regime. This grand strategy should be large in scope, but focused enough to achieve the groups main political aims. It should also be inclusive enough to include larger proportions of society, to encourage greater acts of civil disobedience among the public, to delegitimize the dictatorial regimes authority, and to encourage defections to the democratic cause. He outlines key concepts to take hold of when planning said strategy; both by analyzing ones own plans and resources, and identifying weaknesses and advantages both within the democratic movement and the dictatorial regime. Sharp lists a number of weaknesses dictatorships possess. Although they may seem invincible due to their monopolization of violence, dictatorships are actually surprisingly reliant on support or at least inactivity from the general public. A dictator can only take power if their cause and authority seems legitimate. They require the cooperation of large segments of society - whether it be a functioning bureaucracy or a loyal police and military force. This support can be eroded by delegitimizing the dictators aura of power, and by encouraging those too afraid or apathetic to speak out into action. This is the strength of a properly run democratic movement; it seeks to include a wider segment of society in direct political participation, and thus needs to mobilize this population in order to undermine an autocratic authority. Sharp also warns against the dangers a fledgling democracy will face; sliding back into tyranny is common. The danger of a coup is particularly prevalent in a new democracy that has not yet gained the support of the civil bureaucracy, and the armed forces. New democracies also suffer from an inability to enact reform. Sometimes reforms are too expensive or politically disruptive to implement right away, but this apathy may also damage the legitimacy of the democratic system as a whole and encourage a backslide by the public. These dangers can be overcome through the proper implementation of the groups grand strategy, support and legitimization from foreign actors (ie. the UN etc.) and inclusiveness in the political process. The end of the book consists of an index of methods that can be used as forms of non-violent struggle. Everything from the traditional forms of striking, to boycotting, rent refusal, economic actions and more clandestine noncooperation methods are listed. All in all, this was a very interesting read, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Sharp has written a concise and useful book on methods and best practice for running a democratic revolution through non-violent means. It is certainly an innovative book, and brings to mind Machiavelli's The Prince in its practicality and usefulness as a manual. Although the ideas in this book are certainly idealistic - after all, most revolutions will not run smoothly even with the complete implementation of the practices in this book. Even so, this book offers interesting discourse on regime change and a practical way to struggle against autocratic forces of government. This was a very interesting read, and certainly one I could recommend to those interested in political movements and political theory.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bob Foulkes

    Serendipitously, I read Gene Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy just before joining an election monitoring mission in Ukraine this October 2012. I was in Ukraine two years ago on a similar monitoring mission observing the final round of a Presidential run-off between Yulia Tymoschenko and and Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych won and has been putting into practise all the time tested mechanisms used for turning a democratic state into a dictatorship. On my return two years later, I witnesse Serendipitously, I read Gene Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy just before joining an election monitoring mission in Ukraine this October 2012. I was in Ukraine two years ago on a similar monitoring mission observing the final round of a Presidential run-off between Yulia Tymoschenko and and Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych won and has been putting into practise all the time tested mechanisms used for turning a democratic state into a dictatorship. On my return two years later, I witnessed the result. he had jailed Tymoschenko, cracked down on the media, and interfered with the election processes and principles. Corruption was rampant. This book explains in simple ways how that process, of turning a democracy into a dictatorship can be reversed. It is short, easy to read, simple but not easy. it is one of the most insightful books on political science I have read and should be on the reading list for every introductory college international politics course. In fact, we could all learn a bit from it, for even in the strongest democracies, demagogues and wanna-be dictators lurk.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rui Coelho

    Leninism for Liberals, or How to avoid popular empowerment and ensure the future of a capitalist oligarchy during (mostly fake) revolutionary processes. This book will teach you everything about how to constitute a "revolutionary" vanguard capable of turning an obsolete dictatorship into a western-style liberal "democracy". All this while making sure popular revolt is under your control and will never create any autonomous or subversive social experiment. If the people get out of control, don't f Leninism for Liberals, or How to avoid popular empowerment and ensure the future of a capitalist oligarchy during (mostly fake) revolutionary processes. This book will teach you everything about how to constitute a "revolutionary" vanguard capable of turning an obsolete dictatorship into a western-style liberal "democracy". All this while making sure popular revolt is under your control and will never create any autonomous or subversive social experiment. If the people get out of control, don't forget to send the tanks. It's okay when it's in the name of freedom and democracy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rivera Sun

    Everyone should read this book. It's a citizens' handbook for understanding the rise and fall of dictators through nonviolent resistance. I hate to say it, but it's timely and extremely relevant in America today. Chris Hedges also urges everyone to read Gene Sharp's work. Everyone should read this book. It's a citizens' handbook for understanding the rise and fall of dictators through nonviolent resistance. I hate to say it, but it's timely and extremely relevant in America today. Chris Hedges also urges everyone to read Gene Sharp's work.

  5. 5 out of 5

    James

    Currently I live in a country which last year officially became a dictatorship, when I say officially I of course mean they were presented with their dictatorship certificate from the guild of dictators. I was therefore surprised to have found this book for sale st the main international airport. The irony that they were selling this book to foreigners entering a dictatorship compelled me to buy it, also I thought there was a good chance it would be banned soon. I was keen and enthusiastic, I wen Currently I live in a country which last year officially became a dictatorship, when I say officially I of course mean they were presented with their dictatorship certificate from the guild of dictators. I was therefore surprised to have found this book for sale st the main international airport. The irony that they were selling this book to foreigners entering a dictatorship compelled me to buy it, also I thought there was a good chance it would be banned soon. I was keen and enthusiastic, I went about reading the first few chapters with all the alacrity of a rabid Pancho Villa in the depths of a meth binge. Whilst I could respect that I was getting sound advice I quickly learned that my apathy was far too great to actually do anything more than read this book. It also became apparent to me that the book is geared heavily towards giving advice to people that aspire to usurp a dictatorship and replace it with democracy. I however realized that if I were to topple a dictatorship then I would insist on being in charge for a lucrative period of time, therefore the book I needed to be reading is called "From Dictatorship to Dictatorship". Now that I have read the book I am like a coiled spring waiting to strike and take down the dictatorship, then again maybe I'll just stay in, lie on the sofa watching the tele and order a pizza. As long as my dictatorship still presents me with this freedom, I won't be rocking the boat.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Coop Williams

    This book clearly has much to offer dissidents under modern dictatorships, as it has been translated and used in a handful of peaceful revolts. However, I was hoping for more nuts and bolts for nonviolent revolution, specifically, how does mass communication and coordination work in such situations? I’m curious about the rest of Sharp’s work, and I think libertarians would do well to familiarize themselves with it. This book provides some keen insights on the sources of power for authoritarian g This book clearly has much to offer dissidents under modern dictatorships, as it has been translated and used in a handful of peaceful revolts. However, I was hoping for more nuts and bolts for nonviolent revolution, specifically, how does mass communication and coordination work in such situations? I’m curious about the rest of Sharp’s work, and I think libertarians would do well to familiarize themselves with it. This book provides some keen insights on the sources of power for authoritarian governments and how to pinch off those arteries.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adri Nurellari

    Overall an interesting book , but it was a bit repetitive and shallow

  8. 4 out of 5

    Seth Jones

    I first heard about From Dictatorship to Democracy in a New York Times article connecting this book to peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. After putting the free pdf version on my to-read list, I was excited to find the free audiobook version. Sharp's thesis is that a military overthrow of a dictatorship tends to allow for a new dictatorship, but an overthrow through nonviolent defiance strengthens the ability of the people to replace a dictator with a democ I first heard about From Dictatorship to Democracy in a New York Times article connecting this book to peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. After putting the free pdf version on my to-read list, I was excited to find the free audiobook version. Sharp's thesis is that a military overthrow of a dictatorship tends to allow for a new dictatorship, but an overthrow through nonviolent defiance strengthens the ability of the people to replace a dictator with a democracy. He goes on to outline how careful planning and determination can remove a dictator's means of support, cutting off the sources of power rather than trying to directly overcome that power. In order to prevent the military from attacking the public, democratic activists must work from within to take away the military's support for the regime, rather than trying to fight tanks with stones. Rather than despairing that tyrannical regimes will never be replaced, I now see hope in the events happing in Syria, China, and elsewhere around the world. My respect for those who have pulled off peaceful revolutions has increased, now that I know how much planning and discipline it requires to accomplish such an enormous feat. Although I'm certainly not planning on overthrowing the government any time soon, I found this handbook to be very useful in my understanding of world news. For full review visit Free Listens

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    This is not a historical or theoretical discussion of non-violence. It is the outline of an action plan to overthrow a dictatorial regime through political defiance, the active or actively passive refusal of a subject people to agree to their continued subjugation. Very different from pacifism or religious "nonviolence", it is a deliberate challenge to authority by disobedience which allows no room for submission. It means intransigence, refusal to negotiate with the dictator and his minions (th This is not a historical or theoretical discussion of non-violence. It is the outline of an action plan to overthrow a dictatorial regime through political defiance, the active or actively passive refusal of a subject people to agree to their continued subjugation. Very different from pacifism or religious "nonviolence", it is a deliberate challenge to authority by disobedience which allows no room for submission. It means intransigence, refusal to negotiate with the dictator and his minions (this chapter is short, sharp and very cogent) and relentless attacks on the sources of power of the rulers. Sharp has studied how dictatorships are overthrown (Poland, 1980 to 1990) or kept from taking power (Thailand 1985) both in the library--he knows the sources backward and forward--and in the field, visiting both attempts that failed (Tienanmen Square 1989) and those that succeeded (Prague 1989). Highly recommended for those interested in how seeming ubiquitous and unchanging dictatorships can be overthrown.

  10. 4 out of 5

    James Tracy

    I might have been a little soured on Gene Sharp after reading the New York Time's article basically giving him credit for the Arab Spring. I'm glad I went straight to the source here--lots of very profound thinking on the strategy behind protest. The main weakness here is that he clearly avoids talking about and defining democracy. There's just an assumption that it is the opposite of a traditional dictatorship. Is it simply the right to vote for a representative? What if you have a representati I might have been a little soured on Gene Sharp after reading the New York Time's article basically giving him credit for the Arab Spring. I'm glad I went straight to the source here--lots of very profound thinking on the strategy behind protest. The main weakness here is that he clearly avoids talking about and defining democracy. There's just an assumption that it is the opposite of a traditional dictatorship. Is it simply the right to vote for a representative? What if you have a representative democracy with many of the same outcomes of a dictatorship? That said. I really enjoyed the opportunity to think strategically about effective movement making. I'm going to see if Sharp deals with democracy to a fuller extent in some of his other books.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    I think the work of Gene Sharp is groundbreaking. It is a bit sad that his work receives so very little attention. I wonder if the United States used more of his writings in formulating their policy, we might fight fewer wars. His writing is very approachable, and I like how he formulates his ideas and the very matter-of-fact/non-academic way that he communicates in this book. This is a short book and available for free to download from the Albert Einstein Institution (http://www.aeinstein.org/) I think the work of Gene Sharp is groundbreaking. It is a bit sad that his work receives so very little attention. I wonder if the United States used more of his writings in formulating their policy, we might fight fewer wars. His writing is very approachable, and I like how he formulates his ideas and the very matter-of-fact/non-academic way that he communicates in this book. This is a short book and available for free to download from the Albert Einstein Institution (http://www.aeinstein.org/).

  12. 5 out of 5

    HBalikov

    Succinct and practical - this thin essay provides you with everything you ought to consider BEFORE venturing an opinion on whether (and if so, how) to overcome a dictatorship. Handy appendices add to the variety of approaches available for non-violent success. Brilliant in its own way.

  13. 4 out of 5

    John

    Finally finished this after a several year journey - I first picked this up after reading 'This is An Uprising' after Trump's election. Here are a few things that I, as someone who is not involved in community organizing, was able to take from this (and there would have been much more had I been an organizer!): - the idea that the power of a leader or a system comes from the people & institutions within it, which I think is often referred to as the 'pillars of support' model - the idea that nonvio Finally finished this after a several year journey - I first picked this up after reading 'This is An Uprising' after Trump's election. Here are a few things that I, as someone who is not involved in community organizing, was able to take from this (and there would have been much more had I been an organizer!): - the idea that the power of a leader or a system comes from the people & institutions within it, which I think is often referred to as the 'pillars of support' model - the idea that nonviolent struggle is often helpful against dictators because dictators are really good at violent struggle, and the larger idea of "pick your battles" - the importance of a positive strategy - aiming at a new order, instead of just toppling the old one - and then the guts and judgement to stick to it until it doesn't work anymore There's a lot of more practical advice that I would find helpful if I was building a movement, but so far as I have been participating in activism it has largely been as a metaphorical foot soldier. I did think about some of these things while trying to effect change in my workplace but I found it difficult. Maybe I should have thought harder?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pucheri

    A book everyone should read to understand how people are misusing the power of nonviolence to create chaos in stable communities.

  15. 4 out of 5

    CM

    To be honest, I am not exactly sure whether I am still free to type my thoughts out on this book as my city is now a place where typing a few words online can be a one-way ticket to getting fired or prosecuted . Cherish and exercise your freedom of speech, my friends.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gloynk

    Article reviews/summary of how people in different countries fought military/powerful regimes. I gained a lot in the first two chapters discussing about power dynamic and effective way to fight dictatorship. The appendices also provide some solid examples. The rest of the book is repetitive, I lost it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vitaly Repin

    Amazing book which you need to read in order to get a basic understanding of the nature of non-violent actions. It is more practical than academic. But if you are interested in scientific foundations behind the tactics of non-violent opposition to the oppression, this book can serve as an entry point. It also has valuable references to the academic works on the matter.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    For true wisdom on the lifelong project of Gene Sharp—the “pacifist” theorist behind countless "color revolutions" across the world, ready-made tools for grift, from Yugoslavia to Ukraine, Iran to Hong Kong, Venezuela to Burma, the "Arab Spring" and beyond, responsible for more revolutions than anyone since Lenin or Mao, a dude with deep ties to the US national security state, the kind of Midwest yokel who thinks poverty is just an “act of God,” someone who ushered in all the liberating gifts of For true wisdom on the lifelong project of Gene Sharp—the “pacifist” theorist behind countless "color revolutions" across the world, ready-made tools for grift, from Yugoslavia to Ukraine, Iran to Hong Kong, Venezuela to Burma, the "Arab Spring" and beyond, responsible for more revolutions than anyone since Lenin or Mao, a dude with deep ties to the US national security state, the kind of Midwest yokel who thinks poverty is just an “act of God,” someone who ushered in all the liberating gifts of the free market to all who wanted it, as well as those would've rather opted out—this may not offer much. Instead, you’d be better suited to turn to a passage from Mr. Sam Clemens, at his grumpy old man peak, who speaks on how much non-violence can be somehow the worst outcome for everyone... “Why, it was like reading about France and the French, before the ever memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villainy away in one swift tidal wave of blood – a settlement of that hoary debt in proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell. There were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would be remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the ax compared with lifelong death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by the older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.“ One more choice quote, summing up the Dr Strangelove level of apocalypse intrinsic to Sharp’s unique brand of neolib pacifism — after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new Lithuanian defense minister remarked that, if forced to choose, he would prefer Sharp’s “nonviolent action weapons system” to the nuclear bomb.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    I find this to be essential reading in the current political climate for those who prefer democracy over autocracy—which is surely not everyone, which is precisely why it's so essential for everyone else. This is especially true for anyone whose idea of a solution to the rise of populist authoritarianism is something simplistic like "vote" or "education." This, by the way, counts as education in that context, which is necessary but not sufficient. I wish I could give a copy to everyone who identi I find this to be essential reading in the current political climate for those who prefer democracy over autocracy—which is surely not everyone, which is precisely why it's so essential for everyone else. This is especially true for anyone whose idea of a solution to the rise of populist authoritarianism is something simplistic like "vote" or "education." This, by the way, counts as education in that context, which is necessary but not sufficient. I wish I could give a copy to everyone who identifies with Antifa, Black Bloc, Black Lives Matter, and any of the decreasingly relevant political third parties: this describes the sort of mobilization and strategic planning necessary to implementing what they claim their goals to be, and which none of them, so far as I can tell, actually appear to be doing. One need not already be living in a dictatorship proper to benefit from the analysis and planning available herein, and as the book is in the public domain, there are electronic copies available in multiple languages online free of cost. Get it. Read it. Start doing it. Keep doing it. No democratic movement is ever "finished," merely "less urgent" on occasion, and that occasion is not now.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ollie

    Don’t underestimate the power of the pamphlet. For me, reading about dissent has always been an exercise to dissect and understand concepts. For some reason, I’ve always believed that revolutions are so complex that long exhaustive books are needed to understand them. Instead, it’s the short books that I’ve come to appreciate the more I read. From Dictatorship to Democracy has sort of taken the role of a new Communist Manifesto over the years, being translated into dozens of languages, and even u Don’t underestimate the power of the pamphlet. For me, reading about dissent has always been an exercise to dissect and understand concepts. For some reason, I’ve always believed that revolutions are so complex that long exhaustive books are needed to understand them. Instead, it’s the short books that I’ve come to appreciate the more I read. From Dictatorship to Democracy has sort of taken the role of a new Communist Manifesto over the years, being translated into dozens of languages, and even used as a framework for leading dissent in some countries. Gene Sharp’s book is definitely a quick and clear read that basically takes us through the process of planting a seed of dissent in an oppressive dictatorship, the building of coalitions, what shape those coalitions should strive to have, how to protest peacefully, and how important it is to plan and clearly define the goals of the democratic movement. In addition, Sharpe also stresses the importance of having a new social structure prepared ready to take over the old oppressive one and to clarify what limitations the new government will have so that it allows for a democratic society. From Dictatorship to Democracy could have been a little more thorough and at least offered some examples that would help us understand some of Sharpe’s points, but this shouldn’t take away from the value of this book. It challenges and structures the mind looking for a more free society and helps us understand what motivates revolutions even from afar.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hebden

    I confess I hadn’t heard of Gene Sharp until I heard this book had been a well thumbed text by rebels during the Arab Spring of 2011. First released in the early 1990s this small book is a blueprint for peaceful action against tyrants and dictators. Specifically written about Burma, but not exclusively referenced, it proved to be a useful guide for anyone wishing to engage in dissent against their government. The appendix at the back lists of 120 methods of protest for the reader to engage in, a I confess I hadn’t heard of Gene Sharp until I heard this book had been a well thumbed text by rebels during the Arab Spring of 2011. First released in the early 1990s this small book is a blueprint for peaceful action against tyrants and dictators. Specifically written about Burma, but not exclusively referenced, it proved to be a useful guide for anyone wishing to engage in dissent against their government. The appendix at the back lists of 120 methods of protest for the reader to engage in, a sort of menu of resistance if you will. The central pillar of the books success is that peaceful revolt will succeed more than violent revolt. Violent revolt almost always ends in failure for the simple fact that the ruling regime can call upon more firepower than the rebels – unless other countries intervene and if they do it is seldom for altruistic purposes and can result in a worse situation than before [something becoming more apparent as days pass in Lybia – Jul 2012]. Sharp puts great emphasis on planning and strategy, coordinating events and utilising existing power structures outside of the regime such as trades unions or student networks and his overriding point is that all tyrannies have weakness and revolt can get its fingers inside those cracks to pull them apart. The road is long and never easy but what is easy is to see how this pamphlet has become a modern classic of liberation literature.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dee Renee Chesnut

    I had trouble with the download of this book showing up in my first edition Nook. A call to customer service helped me put it on my Nook for PC so that I could read what I purchased. They said it was a formatting problem. The problem must be fixed, for several days later after I updated my library again, the book appeared on my Nook. I watched a documentary on Current TV about the work of Gene Sharp, and I wanted to read this book of his because it seemed to have influence the news of April Arab I had trouble with the download of this book showing up in my first edition Nook. A call to customer service helped me put it on my Nook for PC so that I could read what I purchased. They said it was a formatting problem. The problem must be fixed, for several days later after I updated my library again, the book appeared on my Nook. I watched a documentary on Current TV about the work of Gene Sharp, and I wanted to read this book of his because it seemed to have influence the news of April Arab uprisings in 2011. He suggests the best stategy to go from dictatorship to democracy is the removal of power from the dictatorship through nonviolent resistance and political defiance. Armed conflict often destoys the infrastructure that the people will need. There has to be a grand strategy so that a democratic government is ready to make its transition so that another dictatorship does not come to power during the struggle. I recommend this book to all for it reminds us that we must continue to participate in our own democratic institutions in our local, state and federal levels to keep them open and strong due to the participation of many. I recommend this book to students of history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I read this book for a Moral Dimensions class this past fall. It is basically a how-to guide on non-violent resistance for citizens hoping to transform their country from dictatorship to democracy. It has been used in many recent uprisings against dictators, including Serbia, Ukraine, and, more recently, Mubarak's overthrow in Egypt. Essentially meant as instructional, Sharp's writing is relatively simple and to-the-point, and at times repetitive. That does not mean, however, that the ideas found I read this book for a Moral Dimensions class this past fall. It is basically a how-to guide on non-violent resistance for citizens hoping to transform their country from dictatorship to democracy. It has been used in many recent uprisings against dictators, including Serbia, Ukraine, and, more recently, Mubarak's overthrow in Egypt. Essentially meant as instructional, Sharp's writing is relatively simple and to-the-point, and at times repetitive. That does not mean, however, that the ideas found in the book are not useful and at times even feel profound. In particular, I was struck by Sharp's idea of permission. In effect, Sharp argues that in order for a dictator to assume and hold onto power, he must have the tacit permission of the populace. If citizens refuse to give this permission (by, say, refusing to leave Tahrir Square), the dictatorship will be unable to survive. It is a rather basic idea, but one that I had not thought of in quite those terms. This turned out to be a timely, interesting read, and one that I think will influence how I view passive resistance from now on.

  24. 4 out of 5

    new

    Gene Sharp gives us the practicalities of how and why the people fight violent dictators with peaceful means. While the most obvious and direct uprising strategies tend to lean towards guerilla warfare or even civil war as the main 'theme' to resist against the oppressor, Sharp is suggesting the complete opposite as an even better plan. The people should instead aim to attack dictatorships where they're the weakest, with tactics they're the least familiar with. From making small symbolism of pro Gene Sharp gives us the practicalities of how and why the people fight violent dictators with peaceful means. While the most obvious and direct uprising strategies tend to lean towards guerilla warfare or even civil war as the main 'theme' to resist against the oppressor, Sharp is suggesting the complete opposite as an even better plan. The people should instead aim to attack dictatorships where they're the weakest, with tactics they're the least familiar with. From making small symbolism of protest to intentionally slacking off, and blocking government buildings, the key to a safe democracy post-dictatorship is winning the hearts and minds of the oppressed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rosie

    I like how some white guy takes credit for revolutions.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Will

    I read because of this tweet: https://twitter.com/maassp/status/126... Great concepts, presented simply. A wonderful novella. I read because of this tweet: https://twitter.com/maassp/status/126... Great concepts, presented simply. A wonderful novella.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Hiser

    “As of 2008, 34% of the world’s 6.68 billion population lived in countries designated as “Not Free,” that is, areas with extremely restricted political rights and civil liberties.” Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and retired political science professor from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, is recognized as an authority on the use of nonviolent action to bring about social and political change. Sharp, who was born in Ohio, earned his BA and MA degrees from The “As of 2008, 34% of the world’s 6.68 billion population lived in countries designated as “Not Free,” that is, areas with extremely restricted political rights and civil liberties.” Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and retired political science professor from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, is recognized as an authority on the use of nonviolent action to bring about social and political change. Sharp, who was born in Ohio, earned his BA and MA degrees from The Ohio State University, and his PhD from Oxford University. During the Korean War, he was jailed for nine months for protesting the military draft. Influenced heavily by the thoughts of Gandhi, Thoreau, and Muste, Sharp--who is a pacifist--founded the non-profit Albert Einstein Institution in 1983 to study and promote nonviolent resistance in world conflicts. His work has influenced resistance struggles in Eastern Europe, Serbia, Egypt, and other countries. Sharp, believes that no ruler can long stay in power without the cooperation and consent of the governed. Stating that all governments and their institutions have areas of vulnerability, Sharp’s “handbook,” From Dictatorship to Democracy, provides guidance for causing change—even the fall of dictatorships and the prevention of new authoritarian governments--without resorting to violence. From Dictatorship to Democracy, a “generic analysis” of authoritarianism, dictatorships, and freedom, was first published in 1993 in Bangkok by the Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Burma. The Burmese government recognized the danger the book brought to its oppressive government and sentenced to prison for seven years any person found to have a copy. Since then, the book has been published in over thirty languages across the world. The beginning chapters of this book-length essay build a case for non-violent action rather than that which is violent. Sharp makes the point that “by placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority.” Governments have more money, power, and access to weapons of war than do average citizens. He also explains that reliance upon outside governments to topple a dictatorship is often futile since those outside governments always put their own needs first. Sharp further states that when basic freedoms are denied the people, they must not negotiate, compromise, or settle for “some basic human rights.” After explaining problems with violent action, Sharp goes on to argue that “[nonviolent] struggle is fought [with] psychological, social, economic, and political weapons applied by the population and the institutions of the society. These have been known under various names of protests, strikes, noncooperation, boycotts, disaffection, and people power.” In short, because the power of authoritarian governments is “granted” by the subjects of the country, it is the people of the country who can best bring about change by their determination and continual nonviolent resistance. This resistance, Sharp writes, involves four tasks: “When one wants to bring down a dictatorship most effectively and with the least cost then one has four immediate tasks: • One must strengthen the oppressed population themselves in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills; • One must strengthen the independent social groups and institutions of the oppressed people; • One must create a powerful internal resistance force; and • One must develop a wise grand strategic plan for liberation and implement it skillfully.” The rest of this short, but “heavy,” book briefly identifies weaknesses in authoritarian governments, and suggests almost strategies and methods to bring about the non-violent disintegration of such governments through political defiance based on “protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and intervention.” Though the book is short enough to read in a few days, it has content and ideas that require multiple readings and much thought. As our own country faces attacks on its institutions of democracy, and as though institutions weaken, this book may very well be worth the time to read and ponder.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I’d never heard of From Dictatorship to Democracy, but when I learned that the book had been used by revolutionaries as an instruction manual for nonviolently working to topple dictatorships in Iran, Venezuela, Serbia, Tibet, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union, the countries of the Arab Spring and elsewhere, my curiosity was peaked. Plus, it couldn’t hurt to have such knowledge given recent frightful political news at home. The book is short and lays out the merits of nonviolence f I’d never heard of From Dictatorship to Democracy, but when I learned that the book had been used by revolutionaries as an instruction manual for nonviolently working to topple dictatorships in Iran, Venezuela, Serbia, Tibet, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union, the countries of the Arab Spring and elsewhere, my curiosity was peaked. Plus, it couldn’t hurt to have such knowledge given recent frightful political news at home. The book is short and lays out the merits of nonviolence for toppling dictatorships and emphasizes key components to an effective nonviolent campaign. The author makes clear that violent revolution against a dictatorship is the least likely to be successful because it confronts dictatorships with a form of resistance that the regime excels at and can usually dominate. Also, a violent revolution is unlikely to result in a strong democracy, but rather just replace one dictatorship for another. The book further cautions against negotiating with dictators since the imbalance in power means the outcome of negotiations is unlikely to be satisfactory for the revolutionaries. Instead, the author argues that all dictators require submission and cooperation from the people and using this weakness against them is likely to be the most effective. This includes a host of tactics such as protests, social and political noncooperation, and economic noncooperation such as boycotts, strikes, and work slowdowns. The author emphasizes that a well thought out grand strategy, detailed strategic planning (incl. planning how to establish a Democracy after the dictatorship falls) and the commitment to stick with both when things get difficult is essential for the success of any resistance effort. The resistance should start small and gradual and ramp up as power and confidence builds. An added benefit of this approach is that the very act of nonviolent resistance helps to build the skills and organization needed for a free democratic society and to resist future attempts to reimpose a dictatorship. Such skills and organization include a free press, free speech, free assembly and independent organizations that make up civil society. I can’t say the book is an exciting read, but it is instructional if one is confronted with the task of toppling a dictatorship.

  29. 5 out of 5

    B. Rule

    I very much appreciate the takeaway from this short handbook, which can be summarized quite pithily: dictators depend on the consent of the governed, and you can and should withhold it from them. Sharp lays out in a very straightforward fashion why he believes non-violent "defiance" is the best technique to topple tyrannies, which I found pretty convincing: non-violence preserves the high moral ground of the dissenter, and it attacks the dictator where he is weakest (a monopolist of violence is I very much appreciate the takeaway from this short handbook, which can be summarized quite pithily: dictators depend on the consent of the governed, and you can and should withhold it from them. Sharp lays out in a very straightforward fashion why he believes non-violent "defiance" is the best technique to topple tyrannies, which I found pretty convincing: non-violence preserves the high moral ground of the dissenter, and it attacks the dictator where he is weakest (a monopolist of violence is only too eager to meet force with force). That said, this book didn't really give me what I was seeking. The account of how to do resistance is posited in such a generalized, high-level way that it is of limited usefulness for specific strategies and tactics. I suppose it really best serves to act as a pep-talk to would-be revolutionaries: it reassures them that, if you plan well and are smart about it, you've got a shot at taking down the tyrant. You won't find much hands-on detail on how to do that here, nor any theoretical framework of what constitutes a dictatorship. Sharp takes it as a given that democracy is good, defiance is good, and more of both in any case is doubly good. That non-ideological (or minimally ideological) approach is open to criticism on the grounds that these techniques can be used to foment either right-wing or left-wing insurgencies; there's no moral or political standard baked in other than a preference for democratic institutions. There is an appendix of specific resistance actions, but it's devoid of any descriptions, exhaustive to the point of hilarity, and peppered with intriguing and sometimes puzzling entries ("nonviolent air raids"? Okay, sounds good I guess? "Lysistratic nonaction"? Mmhm, now we're talking, ladies!). I'm rating this based on my personal expectations for the text, but it's certainly possible that others would glean much more useful information here. In any event, it won't take you long to read, and could come in handy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Sharp was an American pacifist, in the tradition of militant pacifists like AJ Muste. Apparently when he read more about Gandhi's pacifism, he realized that the American pacifists had misunderstood Gandhi's movement. Even if Gandhi was nonviolent for *spiritual* reasons (which is debatable), he convinced his followers that non-violence was *practical*. Sharp seems to have spent the rest of his life trying to convince others that non-violence was the most practical way of resisting dictatorship. U Sharp was an American pacifist, in the tradition of militant pacifists like AJ Muste. Apparently when he read more about Gandhi's pacifism, he realized that the American pacifists had misunderstood Gandhi's movement. Even if Gandhi was nonviolent for *spiritual* reasons (which is debatable), he convinced his followers that non-violence was *practical*. Sharp seems to have spent the rest of his life trying to convince others that non-violence was the most practical way of resisting dictatorship. Unfortunately, "From Dictatorship to Democracy" doesn't talk about this transition from spiritual to practical non-violence. It is a short, repetitive book, with just a few points that he really wants to hammer home: 1. Dictatorships are not invincible 2. If you want a democracy after you overthrow a dictatorship, you should use your struggle to rebuild an independent civil society (independent churches, unions, clubs...) 3. Nonviolent methods, such as strikes, slowdowns, and generally just disobeying orders, have a decent chance of working. 4. Violent methods, on the other hand, play into the dictatorship's strengths, where you will probably lose. Guerrilla warfare might work, but takes forever, lots of people die, and brings out un-democratic tendencies. 5. You actually have to be strategic and tactical, and can't just make a big protest that will be repressed immediately. Seems like mostly good advice. Some other review called this "Lenin for liberals", but it seems more like Gramsci+Gandhi (not as catchy, though). That said, it's a guide to democratic revolution, not to economic revolution, and he has veiled hints that promising immediate economic change is risky, because its failure can lead to a future coup, and its success can require new dictatorial powers. Dissent Magazine has a good review of this book: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/artic...

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