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Gene Sharp

Gene Sharp
Born (1928-01-21) January 21, 1928
North Baltimore, Ohio[1][2]
Residence East Boston, Massachusetts[2]
Citizenship American
Fields Political science, civil resistance, nonviolent revolution
Institutions University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Harvard University, Albert Einstein Institution
Alma mater Ohio State University, Oxford University
Influences Mohandas K. Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, others
Gene Sharp

(born January 21, 1928) is the founder of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.[3] He is known for his extensive writings on nonviolent struggle, which have influenced numerous anti-government resistance movements around the world.

Gene Sharp has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015[4] and has previously been nominated three times in 2009, 2012 and 2013.[5][6][7][8] Sharp was widely considered the favourite for the 2012 award.[9][10][11] In 2011 he was awarded the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize.[12] In 2012 he was a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award[13] as well as the Distinguished Lifetime Democracy Award.[14]


  • Biography 1
  • Sharp's contributions to the theory of nonviolent resistance 2
  • Sharp's influence on struggles worldwide 3
  • Criticism 4
  • Works 5
    • 1960s and 1970s 5.1
    • 1980s 5.2
    • 1990s 5.3
    • 2000s and 2010s 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Sharp was born in Aldermaston March. The next two years he studied and researched in Oslo with Professor Arne Næss, who derived together with Johan Galtung from Mohandas Gandhi's writings the Satyagraha Norms.[18] In 1968, he received a Doctor of Philosophy in political theory from Oxford University.[16]

Sharp has been a professor of political science at the nonviolent action in conflicts worldwide.[19] The Albert Einstein Institution has received funding from the Ford Foundation, the International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, while some former directors have come from the RAND Corporation and the Ford Foundation.[20] In 2004, the Albert Einstein Institution lost much of its funding (with income dropping from more than $1m a year to as little as $160,000), and since that time has been run out of Sharp's home in East Boston, near Logan Airport.[21]

Sharp's contributions to the theory of nonviolent resistance

Gene Sharp described the sources of his ideas as in-depth studies of Mohandas K. Gandhi, A. J. Muste,[22] Henry David Thoreau to a minor degree, and other sources footnoted in his 1973 book The Politics of Nonviolent Action, which was based on his 1968 PhD thesis.[23] In the book, a "three-volume classic on civil disobedience,"[24] he provides a pragmatic political analysis of nonviolent action as a method for applying power in a conflict.

Sharp's key theme is that power is not monolithic; that is, it does not derive from some intrinsic quality of those who are in pharaohs, the dignity of the office of the President, moral or ethical norms and taboos). Through these systems, subjects are presented with a system of sanctions (imprisonment, fines, ostracism) and rewards (titles, wealth, fame) which influence the extent of their obedience.

Sharp identifies this hidden structure as providing a window of opportunity for a population to cause significant change in a state. Sharp cites the insight of Étienne de La Boétie (1530–1563), that if the subjects of a particular state recognize that they are the source of the state's power, they can refuse their obedience and their leader(s) will be left without power.

Sharp published Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential in 2005. It builds on his earlier written works by documenting case studies where nonviolent action has been applied, and the lessons learned from those applications, and contains information on planning nonviolent struggle to make it more effective.

For his lifelong commitment to the defense of freedom, democracy, and the reduction of political violence through scholarly analysis of the power of nonviolent action, The Peace Abbey of Sherborn, MA awarded him the Courage of Conscience award April 4, 2008.[25]

A feature documentary by Scottish director, Ruaridh Arrow, "How to Start a Revolution" about the global influence of Gene Sharp's work was released in September 2011. The film won "Best Documentary" and "The Mass Impact Award" at the Boston Film Festival in September 2011.[26] The European premiere was held at London's Raindance Film Festival on October 2, 2011 where it also won Best Documentary.[27] The film has been described as the unofficial film of the Occupy Wall St movement being shown in Occupy camps in cities all over the world. The film has been screened to MPs and Lords in the British Houses of Parliament and won a Scottish BAFTA award in April 2012. A How to Start a Revolution iPad app was released on the Apple app store on October 9, 2012 including the documentary and several Gene Sharp books.

Sharp's influence on struggles worldwide

Sharp has been called both the "Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies which helped to train the key activists in the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak of Egypt, and many other earlier youth movements in the Eastern European color revolutions.

Sharp's 1993 handbook Zubr. Pora's Oleh Kyriyenko said in a 2004 interview with Radio Netherlands,

"The bible of Pora has been the book of Gene Sharp, also used by Otpor!, it's called: From Dictatorship to Democracy. Pora activists have translated it by themselves. We have written to Mr Sharp and to the Albert Einstein Institute in the United States, and he became very sympathetic towards our initiative, and the Institution provided funding to print over 12,000 copies of this book for free."[31]

Sharp's writings on "Civilian-Based Defense"[32] were used by the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments during their separation from the [17]

The Iranian government charged protesters against alleged fraud in the 2009 elections with following Gene Sharp's tactics. The Tehran Times reported: "According to the indictment, a number of the accused confessed that the post-election unrest was preplanned and the plan was following the timetable of the velvet revolution to the extent that over 100 stages of the 198 steps of Gene Sharp were implemented in the foiled velvet revolution."[33]

Former members of the IRA are reported to be studying his work[34]

Sharp and his work have been profiled in numerous media[35]however some have claimed Sharp's influence has been exaggerated by Westerners looking for a Lawrence of Arabia figure.[36][37]


Coverage of Gene Sharp's influence in the Egyptian revolution produced a backlash from some Egyptian bloggers. One, journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy, stated that "Not only was Mubarak's foreign policy hated and despised by the Egyptian people, but parallels were always drawn between the situation of the Egyptian people and their Palestinian brothers and sisters. The latter have been the major source of inspiration, not Gene Sharp, whose name I first heard in my life only in February after we toppled Mubarak already and whom the clueless NYT moronically gives credit for our uprising."[38] Another, Egyptian writer and activist Karim Alrawi, argued that Gene Sharp's writings are more about regime change than revolution. He defines the latter as having an ethical as well as a material dimension that Sharp deliberately avoids engaging with, and credits local circumstances and the spark provided by the Tunisian revolution for the Egyptian success.[39]

However evidence and testimony from four different activist groups working in Egypt at the time of the revolution contradict these claims. Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist said that activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp's work into Arabic, and that his message of "attacking weaknesses of dictators" stuck with them.[40] Ahmed Maher a leader of the April 6 democracy group also stated in the How to Start a Revolution documentary, "Gene Sharp's books had a huge impact" among other influences.[41] the Associated Press reported as early as September 2010 more than four months before the revolution that Gene Sharp's work was being used by activists in Egypt close to political leader Mohammed El Baradei.[42] Finally The New York Times reported that Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy had been posted by the Muslim Brotherhood on its website during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.[43]

Gene Sharp has been accused of having strong links with a variety of US institutions including the CIA, the Pentagon and Republican-related institutions, i.e. International Republican Institute and RAND Corporation, National Endowment for Democracy.[20] The Voltaire Network has accused Sharp and his Albert Einstein Institution of just promoting destabilization on countries disaligned with USA interests.[44] On the other hand, there has been debate around Sharp's works influencing the Arab Spring,[45] with a Wikileaks cable citing his work in a US embassy in Damascus[46] while other media rejected such claims.[47]

Gene Sharp has consistently denied these claims and after a period of these sustained attacks in June 2008 notable left wing writers Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn among others defended Gene Sharp in a signed a letter which was circulated by U.S. and internationally based scholars and activists. An extract from this letter reads as follows:

"Rather than being a tool of imperialism, Dr. Sharp’s research and writings have inspired generations of progressive peace, labor, feminist, human rights, environmental, and social justice activists in the United States and around the world. The Albert Einstein Institution has never received any money from any government or government-funded entity. Nor does Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution collaborate with the CIA, the NED, or any U.S. government or government-funded agencies; nor has Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution ever provided financial or logistical support to any opposition groups in any country; nor has Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution ever taken sides in political conflicts or engaged in strategic planning with any group. The Albert Einstein Institution operates with a very minimal budget out of Dr. Sharp’s home with a staff consisting of two people – Dr. Sharp and a young administrator – and is quite incapable of carrying out the foreign intrigues of which it has been falsely accused." [48]


Sharp's major works, including both authored and edited books, have been published since the 1950s.

1960s and 1970s

  • Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories, Foreword by Albert Einstein. Introduction by Bharatan Kumarappa. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1960. OCLC 2325889
  • Civilian Defense: An Introduction, (Adam Roberts, T.K. Mahadevan & Gene Sharp, eds.). Introductory statement by President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1967. OCLC 2904885
  • Exploring Nonviolent Alternatives, Introduction by David Riesman. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1970.
  • The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Introduction by Thomas C. Schelling. Prepared under the auspices of Harvard University's Center for International Affairs. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973. ISBN 978-0-87558-068-5
  • I, Power and Struggle. 114 pp., June 1973. ISBN 978-0-87558-070-8
  • II, The Methods of Nonviolent Action. 348 pp., June 1973. ISBN 978-0-87558-071-5
  • III, Dynamics of Nonviolent Action. 466 pp. Boston: Porter Sargent, November 1985. ISBN 978-0-87558-072-2
  • Indian edition. Introduction by Dr. Federico Mayor. Original Introduction by Coretta Scott King, New Delhi: Gandhi Media Centre, 1999. OCLC 52226697



  • Civilian-Based Defense: A Post-Military Weapons System, with the assistance of Bruce Jenkins, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0-691-07809-0
  • From Dictatorship to Democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation (see article). The Albert Einstein Institution, 2003. ISBN 978-1-880813-09-6 (first published in 1994)
  • Nonviolent Action: A Research Guide, with Ronald McCarthy, New York: Garland Publishers, 1997.

2000s and 2010s

  • There are realistic alternatives, 2003. ISBN 1-880813-12-2. Accessible as an e-book and LibriVox audiobook.
  • Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential with Joshua Paulson, Extending Horizons Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0-87558-162-0
  • Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression with the assistance of Jamila Raqib, First Edition, Boston, MA: The Albert Einstein Institution, November 2009. ISBN 978-1-88-081323-2. Accessible as an e-book.
  • Sharp's Dictionary of Power and Struggle. Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-19-982988-0
  • Sharp, Gene; Bernal, Jaime Gonzalez (2013). How Nonviolent Struggle Works. East Boston, MA: [49])Politics of Nonviolent Action (condensation of Sharp's  

See also


  1. ^ Albert Einstein Institution: Biography
  2. ^ a b c d e Ruaridh, Arrow (February 21, 2011). "Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook". BBC. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook". BBC News. February 21, 2011. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook By Ruaridh Arrow, BBC News February 21, 2011
  7. ^ "Nobel Peace Prize 2012: PRIO Director's Speculations". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ Oslo Newsroom (February 27, 2012). "Former President Bill Clinton among Nobel Prize nominees". Reuters. The story states: "Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo and one of the individuals eligible to nominate candidates, has released a short list of those names he had submitted. It is headed by Gene Sharp, a U.S. writer and philosopher who has long advocated non-violent action for social justice" (accessed March 5, 2012).
  9. ^ "Peace Institute Says Nobel Rankings Favor Sharp, Echo of Moscow". Bloomberg. 
  10. ^ "Who will take home this year's Nobel Peace Prize? -". CNN. October 12, 2012. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "El-Hibri Peace Education Prize". Prize Laureates. El-Hibri Charitable Foundation. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Right Livelihood Award". List of Laureates. The Right Livelihood Award Foundation. Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  14. ^ "The Zambrano Foundation has announced The First Annual Democracy Symposium in The Americas 2012".   The article states that Sharp will receive the award at a symposium that "will take place on November 15 and 16 at the Alumni Center, University of Miami, Florida."
  15. ^ Philip Shishkin (September 13, 2008), "American Revolutionary: Quiet Boston Scholar Inspires Rebels Around the World". Wall Street Journal, p. A1.
  16. ^ a b "GENE SHARP A Biographical Profile". Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ Sharp, Gene, Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power, Ahmedabad 1960, p. X, XI
  19. ^ Gene Sharp biography at Albert Einstein Institution web site.
  20. ^ a b Daily Censored web site.
  21. ^ a b  
  22. ^ The Quiet American, by Janine Di Giovanni (NYTimes, September 3, 2012) Quote: 'After his release in 1954, Sharp worked for A. J. Muste, whom he calls “the most famous American pacifist.”'
  23. ^ Sharp, Gene (June 12, 2007). "Corrections – an open letter from Gene Sharp".  
  24. ^  
  25. ^ The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List
  26. ^ 2011 Boston Film Festival (schedule) (accessed September 8, 2011)
  27. ^ [1] (accessed September 8, 2011)
  28. ^ Weber, Thomas (2004). Gandhi as Disciple and Mentor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 232.  
  29. ^ From dictatorship to democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation. The Albert Einstein Institution, 2003. ISBN 978-1-880813-09-6
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Radio Netherlands". February 13, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  32. ^ [See, for example, Sharp, Gene] Civilian-based Defense
  33. ^ [Tehran Times, August 2, 2009,]
  34. ^
  35. ^ For example, a profile by CNN, written by Mairi Mackay (June 25, 2012). "Gene Sharp: A dictator's worst nightmare", CNNWorld (accessed June 27, 2012).
  36. ^ KIRKPATRICK, DAVID and SANGER, DAVID (February 13, 2011). "A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  37. ^ Walker, Jesse (February 25, 2011) Teaching People Power, Reason
  38. ^ "Nabil Fahmy: ‘This revolution actually serves Israel as well’". April 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-28. 
  39. ^ Karim Alrawi, "Gene Sharp & Egypt's Revolution"
  40. ^ "Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution". The New York Times. February 16, 2011. 
  41. ^
  42. ^ Sara El Deeb (Sep 16, 2010), "Egypt's youth build new opposition movement", The Guardian, (accessed December 3, 2011)
  43. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (December 16, 2011). "Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution". New York Times. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ According to Gene Sharp's Preface to How Nonviolent Struggle Works (2013): "The present text is an extreme abridgement of the published The Politics of Nonviolent Action. The original condensation was prepared by Jaime Gonzalez Bernal in Spanish in Mexico and published as La Lucha Politica Nonviolenta.... in March 1988... The English language text here is primarily Mr. Glozalez Bernal's condensation returned to English. It has been evaluated and edited with the important assistance of Caridad Inda. She has made major contributions to this text from 1987 to this edition in 2013. I have made limited recent changes and additions to both the English and the Spanish texts and have changed the title to How Nonviolent Struggle Works" (pp. xi–xii).

External links

  • The Albert Einstein Institution's web site offers many of Gene Sharp works for free download, in English and in over sixty translations.
  • How to Start a Revolution official Movie site Documentary about the work of Gene Sharp
  • 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
  • Works by or about Gene Sharp at Internet Archive
  • Works by Gene Sharp at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Works by Gene Sharp at The Online Books Page
  • Gene Sharp: A Biographical Profile at Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
  • Interview: Gene Sharp, Noreen Shanahan, The New Internationalist, November 5, 1997
  • Teaching People Power, interview with Reason magazine (February 25, 2011)
  • U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition, Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, December 11, 2000
  • Gene Sharp 101, Metta Spencer, Peace Magazine, July–Sept 2003
  • Ukraine: The Resistance Will Not Stop, Margreet Strijbosch, Radio Netherlands, November 25, 2004
  • The dictator slayer, Adam Reilly, The Boston Phoenix, December 5, 2007
  • American Revolutionary: Quiet Boston Scholar Inspires Rebels Around the World, Philip Shishkin, Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2008; Page A1.
  • Revolution of the mind, Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, December 20, 2009
  • Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times, February 16, 2011
  • The Quiet American, Janine Di Giovanni, The New York Times, September 3, 2012.
  • Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook, Ruaridh Arrow (director of "Gene Sharp – How to Start a Revolution" film), BBC News, February 21, 2011
  • Gene Sharp on Non-Violent Revolution, As It Happens, February 23, 2011
  • Gene Sharp at London Frontline Club, Viddler, January 30, 2012
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