Gene Sharp and Social Movements: Contributions and Legacies

The Independent Review, (2023 Forthcoming)

11 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2023

See all articles by Mikayla Novak

Mikayla Novak

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: January 20, 2023


Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action provides a comprehensive account of non-violent strategies and tactical actions adopted by social movements globally. Sharp not only articulates the basis of political power that is challenged by movement activists, but indicates the relative advantages of tactical non-violence over violence when seeking societal change. This paper considers the legacy of Sharp’s seminal book and appraises its continuing theoretical and empirical relevance for the study of social movements. The strategic underpinning of Sharp’s non-violence theory is shown to be complemented by non-material factors, such as emotions and ideological belief, that motivate activism against sources of authority. This paper also shows that Sharp’s advocacy of non-violent action is affirmed by recent empirical literature that shows that non-violence is more effective in helping to achieve movement goals. Theoretical and empirical developments following the publication of The Politics of Nonviolent Action have vindicated Sharp’s original insights.

Keywords: Gene Sharp, non-violence, social movements

JEL Classification: B5, D7, Z1

Suggested Citation

Novak, Mikayla, Gene Sharp and Social Movements: Contributions and Legacies (January 20, 2023). The Independent Review, (2023 Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Mikayla Novak (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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