From Dictatorship to Democracy

A Conceptual Framework for Liberation

Sharp, Gene

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
From Dictatorship to Democracy
Baker & Taylor
Offers a blueprint for nonviolent resistance to repressive governments that has influenced resistance movements around the world, including Iran, Venezuela, and Egypt.

Perseus Publishing
Twenty-one years ago, at a friend’s request, a Massachusetts professor sketched out a blueprint for nonviolent resistance to repressive regimes. It would go on to be translated, photocopied, and handed from one activist to another, traveling from country to country across the globe: from Iran to Venezuela?where both countries consider Gene Sharp to be an enemy of the state?to Serbia; Afghanistan; Vietnam; the former Soviet Union; China; Nepal; and, more recently and notably, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, where it has served as a guiding light of the Arab Spring.

This short, pithy, inspiring, and extraordinarily clear guide to overthrowing a dictatorship by nonviolent means lists 198 specific methods to consider, depending on the circumstances: sit-ins, popular nonobedience, selective strikes, withdrawal of bank deposits, revenue refusal, walkouts, silence, and hunger strikes. From Dictatorship to Democracy is the remarkable work that has made the little-known Sharp into the world’s most effective and sought-after analyst of resistance to authoritarian regimes.

Book News
Sharp (political science, UMASS Dartmouth) analyzes the anatomy of dictatorships, the cultures of nonviolent resistance that bring them down, and how effective democratic modes of collective life are forged out of those cultures. It's not a detailed analysis of any particular struggle with a dictator, but more of an abstract view on the elements that Sharp has gleaned from his interactions with survivors and resistors of dictatorships. He considers facing dictator's realistically so as to reduce casualties, the dangers of negotiations, sources of political power, attacking the weaknesses of dictators through nonviolent struggle, strategic planning and applying political defiance. A final chapter presents "a groundwork for durable democracy" that addresses the threat of new dictators and defending democracy. An appendix also offers a cheat-sheet of different kinds of nonviolent actions people can take. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: New York : New Press ; [Jackson, Tenn.] : Distributed by Perseus, 2012
ISBN: 9781595588500
Branch Call Number: 321.8 S
Characteristics: viii, 138 p. ; 19 cm.


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Jun 10, 2014
  • mrthursday rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

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Sep 22, 2013

This short book is a handbook for revolution. It is aimed at those living in truly oppressive regimes and has been used by many, including people living in the former Yugoslavia, as a roadmap to overthrowing dictators. Sharp advocates for non-violent struggle because choosing violence plays to the advantage of the oppressors, who almost always have the advantage; and because it tends to inure the young democrats to violence, meaning any new gov’t is at risk of being no better than the old regime – in short, practice what you preach. The key points are to have a comprehensive strategy to delegitimise the regime, to follow that strategy, and to have a transition plan to democracy lest all your hard work be lost to opportunists, coups or chaos. However the book has lessons for anyone interested in shifting the balance of power, righting malfunctioning or debased democracies, and fighting for better governance. I also see in it lessons and ideas for addressing climate change, fighting corporate power and improving equality. JS


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Sharp, Gene
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