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Nonviolence Is Who? Gene Sharp and Gandhi

Title:Nonviolence Is Who? Gene Sharp and Gandhi
Author:Weber Thomas
Publication:Peace and Change / Blackwell Publishing
Enumeration:Vol. 28, No. 2, April 2003
Abstract:There appear to be two approaches to non-violence. They have been termed "principled," where emphasis is on human harmony and a moral rejection of violence and coercion, and "pragmatic", where conflict is seen as normal and the rejection of violence as an effective way of challenging power. Failure to distinguish between the two strands can lead to a diminution in the effectiveness of nonviolent action and can cause confusion among the audience. The acknowledged leading figures representing these approaches are Mahatma Gandhi and Gene Sharp. Sharp was once an idealistic seeker after Gandhi, yet his later work is characterized by hard-bitten realism. He now champions a “technique approach” to nonviolent action, arguing that it should be used for pragmatic rather than for religious or ethical reasons. Depending on how one looks at it, Sharp either has gone beyond Gandhi, making nonviolence a more practically available method of struggle, or has ditched key elements of Gandhi's philosophy in action in a way that diminishes nonviolence. Perhaps rather than debating the merits of each approach, they can be seen as indicating alternative paths to the traveler who does not want to use violence.

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