Midwest Book Review 

John Burroughs review of Gene Sharp's Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential

Senior scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution of Boston, Massachusetts, Gene Sharp and his team of like-minded researchers apply 50 years of history, academics, and practical experience to present Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential, a meticulous accounting of how nonviolent methodologies can combat dictatorships, war, genocide, and oppression.

Waging Nonviolent Struggle is particularly valuable in its use of logic and close analysis of specific historical cases of nonviolent struggle to debunk common myths concerning the practice. Such myths include the contention that nonviolence is ineffective against dictatorships and genocide, or that nonviolent methodologies rely upon an appeal to the moral character of the opponent (in fact, nonviolent coercive techniques such as economic boycott and social noncompliance have an impact regardless of the humanitarian stature of the regime in question).

The high value of properly applied and disciplined nonviolent resistance is demonstrated, in particular because nonviolent methodologies have the potential to bring successful results at a lower overall mortality rate than violent methodologies, and uninvolved third parties (a.k.a. "innocent civilians") are less likely to suffer collateral damage. Scrutinized case studies, overviewed and documented by a variety of different researchers, range from a successful protest of German women in Berlin to save their Jewish husbands (who had intermarried) from deportation and execution during World War II; the 1989 student uprising in China that ended in a tragic massacre; the successful defense of democracy in Thailand after a long succession of military coups; the successful removal of genocidal dictator Slobodan Milosevic from power in Serbia; and much more.

In addition, Waging Nonviolent Struggle offers a "handbook" concerning how to coordinate nonviolent resistance with an eye on practical results and success. Written especially to answer the demanding need for realistic alternatives to violent conflict, Waging Nonviolent Struggle succeeds admirably in its mission and carries the absolute highest recommendation.

close this window