In an academic and professional career spanning more than six decades, Gene Sharp has articulated and advanced the cause of nonviolent action for change. His ideas and writings and his close study of Gandhi and dictatorships have informed nonviolent struggles for freedom around the world.
A social sciences graduate of Ohio State University (B.A., 1949, with honors in political science, debate, and sociology), Sharp continued his studies at Ohio State, earning his Master of Arts in sociology in 1951. He concentrated in sociological theory with additional work in inter-group relations, social psychology, and anthropology. He wrote his master’s thesis on the sociology of nonviolence.
From 1951 until 1955, Sharp was in New York City conducting independent studies on the history of nonviolent action and the life and work of Gandhi. That work led to his first book, Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories, completed in 1953 and published in 1960 with a foreword by Albert Einstein. Also during those New York years, Sharp was arrested for civil disobedience to military conscription during the Korean War, for which he spent nine months in prison.
In 1955, he became assistant editor of Peace News in London. Later, he was a lecturer at the Institute for Philosophy and the History of Ideas of the University of Oslo and a research associate at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo.
From 1960 to 1964 he undertook doctoral studies at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, His D.Phil. from Oxford, awarded in 1968, focused on theories of the nature of political power and the history, methods, and dynamics of nonviolent struggle.
In 1965 he became a research associate at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, a position he held for nearly 30 years. He also was professor of political science and sociology at the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth. In 1983, Sharp founded the Albert Einstein Institution, a nonprofit organization that supports research and policy studies on strategic nonviolent action and has consulted with resistance and pro-democracy groups in Burma, Thailand, Tibet, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, and elsewhere. He continues as senior scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth. He holds two honorary doctorates and has received other honors.
Dr. Sharp is the author of various books and many other publications on nonviolent struggle, power, political problems, liberation struggle, dictatorships, and defense policy. His writings have been published in over 40 languages.
His books include The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973; Introduction by Thomas C. Schelling), Making Europe Unconquerable (1985; Foreword by George F. Kennan), Civilian-Based Defense (1990), Social Power and Political Freedom (1980; Introduction by Senator Mark O. Hatfield), and Gandhi as a Political Strategist (1979 and 1999; Introduction by Coretta Scott King and Foreword by Frederico Mayor). Sharp’s The Power and Practice of Nonviolent Struggle (in Tibetan; 1999) carried a Foreword by the Dalai Lama. His more recent works include Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential (2005) and How Nonviolent Struggle Works (2013). Sharp’s Dictionary of Power and Struggle (2011) represents the culmination of decades of study and thought, and is a groundbreaking reference work that defines the key concepts and terms surrounding nonviolent struggle.
His first book, Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power (1960), included a Foreword by Albert Einstein and an Introduction by Bharatan Kumarappa. Sharp is also co-editor of Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence (1986) and of Nonviolent Action: A Research Guide (1997), as well as a contributor to several encyclopedias.
His recent shorter writings include “From Dictatorship to Democracy” (translated into 42 languages; 1993, 2002, and 2003), “The Anti-Coup” (co-author; 2003), “There Are Realistic Alternatives” (2003), and “Self-Liberation” (2010).
Dr. Sharp has prepared simplified presentations on the nature of nonviolent struggle and its applications against dictatorships and coups d’état. He has conducted workshops and consulted on strategic nonviolent struggle internationally in severe crisis situations.
He is convinced that pragmatic, strategically planned nonviolent struggle can be made highly effective for application in conflicts to lift oppression and as a substitute for violence.