Gene Sharp

March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

This NY Times profile piece on the renowned non-violence expert Gene Sharp is now slightly old – but very much worth a read.

He’s sometimes known as the Machiavelli of civil disobedience, and reading his books on strategy certainly reveal a seasoned thinker and practicioner. His latest, From Dictatorship to Democracy has been read widely by movement leaders in the Middle East, especially Egypt, and the lessons learned from previous struggles are evident.

This short list of the necessary sources of political power are worth baring in mind for campaigners mapping out power.

The principle is simple. Dictators require the assistance of the people they rule, without which they cannot secure and maintain the sources of political power. These sources of political power include:

  • Authority, the belief among the people that the regime is le- gitimate, and that they have a moral duty to obey it;
  • Human resources, the number and importance of the persons and groups which are obeying, cooperating, or providing assistance to the rulers;
  • Skills and knowledge, needed by the regime to perform spe- cific actions and supplied by the cooperating persons and groups;
  • Intangible factors, psychological and ideological factors that may induce people to obey and assist the rulers;
  • Material resources, the degree to which the rulers control or have access to property, natural resources, financial resources, the economic system, and means of communication and transportation; and
  • Sanctions, punishments, threatened or applied, against the disobedient and noncooperative to ensure the submission and cooperation that are needed for the regime to exist and carry out its policies.

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