Summary of From Dictatorship to Democracy

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Political scientist Gene Sharp wrote this powerful essay in 1993 to support the resistance movement in Burma, where the government sentenced people who owned this booklet to seven years in jail. Since then, opponents of oppression – most notably in the Arab uprisings of 2011 – have distributed this text widely to political and social activists who want to apply Sharp’s 40 years of research, experience and writing about nonviolent struggles, dictatorships and resistance movements. Sharp distills his work on political theory and sociology into a readable, tight, practical volume. Its appendix lists dozens of specific tactics for organizers who want to mount peaceful campaigns against established oppressive forces. getAbstract recommends this influential pamphlet to everybody interested in understanding how peaceful revolutions work.

About the Author

Gene Sharp is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts and at Dartmouth. Known for his extensive, influential writings on nonviolent struggle, he is the author of Waging Nonviolent Struggle and Gandhi as a Political Strategist.

 

Summary

Destroying Dictatorships

Opponents can “prevent and destroy” dictatorships, which manifest in many forms under the guises of various philosophies. Abhorrent dictatorships are not uncommon; they have existed in Panama, Tibet, Laos, Poland and Burma. Since 1980, dictatorships have fallen – largely due to nonviolent means – in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Czechoslovakia, Madagascar, Bolivia, Mali, the Philippines and East Germany. Nonviolent intervention by citizens of Nepal, Zambia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, Uruguay, Malawi, Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary, Nigeria and segments of the old Soviet Union have all advanced democracy. “Political defiance” alerts repressive regimes that an agitated population is ready to gain more control over its political and governmental institutions. Yet when a dictatorship collapses, it often leaves poverty, destruction, pollution, crime and inefficient government in its wake.

The trend toward democratic national governments is increasing. A Freedom House study found that “Free” nations increased from 54 countries in 1983 to 89 in 2009 as “Not Free” nations fell from 64 to 42. This shift is positive, but...


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