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This Is an Uprising
Cover of This Is an Uprising
This Is an Uprising
How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century
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Strategic nonviolent action has reasserted itself as a potent force in shaping public debate and forcing political change. Whether it is an explosive surge of protest calling for racial justice in the United States, a demand for democratic reform in Hong Kong or Mexico, a wave of uprisings against dictatorship in the Middle East, or a tent city on Wall Street that spreads throughout the country, when mass movements erupt onto our television screens, the media portrays them as being as spontaneous and unpredictable. In This is an Uprising, political analysts Mark and Paul Engler uncover the organization and well-planned strategies behind such outbursts of protest, examining core principles that have been used to spark and guide moments of transformative unrest.
This is an Uprising traces the evolution of civil resistance, providing new insights into the contributions of early experimenters such as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., groundbreaking theorists such as Gene Sharp and Frances Fox Piven, and contemporary practitioners who have toppled repressive regimes in countries such as South Africa, Serbia, and Egypt. Drawing from discussions with activists now working to defend human rights, challenge corporate corruption, and combat climate change, the Englers show how people with few resources and little influence in conventional politics can nevertheless engineer momentous upheavals.
Although it continues to prove its importance in political life, the strategic use of nonviolent action is poorly understood. Nonviolence is usually studied as a philosophy or moral code, rather than as a method of political conflict, disruption, and escalation. This is an Uprising corrects this oversight. It argues that if we are always taken by surprise by dramatic outbreaks of revolt, and if we decline to incorporate them into our view of how societies progress, then we pass up the chance to fully grasp a critical phenomenon—and to harness its power to create lasting change.

Strategic nonviolent action has reasserted itself as a potent force in shaping public debate and forcing political change. Whether it is an explosive surge of protest calling for racial justice in the United States, a demand for democratic reform in Hong Kong or Mexico, a wave of uprisings against dictatorship in the Middle East, or a tent city on Wall Street that spreads throughout the country, when mass movements erupt onto our television screens, the media portrays them as being as spontaneous and unpredictable. In This is an Uprising, political analysts Mark and Paul Engler uncover the organization and well-planned strategies behind such outbursts of protest, examining core principles that have been used to spark and guide moments of transformative unrest.
This is an Uprising traces the evolution of civil resistance, providing new insights into the contributions of early experimenters such as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., groundbreaking theorists such as Gene Sharp and Frances Fox Piven, and contemporary practitioners who have toppled repressive regimes in countries such as South Africa, Serbia, and Egypt. Drawing from discussions with activists now working to defend human rights, challenge corporate corruption, and combat climate change, the Englers show how people with few resources and little influence in conventional politics can nevertheless engineer momentous upheavals.
Although it continues to prove its importance in political life, the strategic use of nonviolent action is poorly understood. Nonviolence is usually studied as a philosophy or moral code, rather than as a method of political conflict, disruption, and escalation. This is an Uprising corrects this oversight. It argues that if we are always taken by surprise by dramatic outbreaks of revolt, and if we decline to incorporate them into our view of how societies progress, then we pass up the chance to fully grasp a critical phenomenon—and to harness its power to create lasting change.

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About the Author-
  • Mark Engler, a writer based in Philadelphia, is an editorial board member at Dissent, a contributing editor at Yes! Magazine, and a senior analyst with the think tank Foreign Policy In Focus. He is the author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy.
    Paul Engler is founding director of the Center for the Working Poor, in Los Angeles. He worked for more a decade as an organizer in the immigrant rights, global justice, and labor movements. He now serves as a lead trainer at Movement Mastery.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2015
    Optimistic overview of the recent surge in politically directed, nonviolent mass advocacy movements, focused on historical examples and the tactical future. Co-authors Mark Engler (How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy, 2008) and Paul Engler, founding director of the Center for the Working Poor, collaborate on a cleareyed, enthusiastic treatise, seeing evidence in diverse historical and recent events that collective civil actions are supplanting violent rebellions in creating social change. At the outset, they wonder, "what if periods of mass, spontaneous uprising are neither as spontaneous nor as unbridled as they might at first appear?" They build their response around a number of longitudinal real-world examples, ranging from Martin Luther King's 1963 campaign in Birmingham to Gandhi's 1930 "salt march," which discredited the British Raj, to the recent Occupy protests. They synthesize these narratives with an overview of effective strategies, based on theorists Saul Alinsky, Frances Fox Piven, and Gene Sharp (an obscure academic considered a perennial favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize), producing a clearly organized mix of history and handbook. Although King was an early proponent of "momentum-driven mass mobilization," the Englers note that his approach was more improvisational and high-risk than is historically remembered. They hold up the surprisingly quick mainstream acceptance of gay marriage as an example of successful legislation and networking; in contrast, the divisive tactics of ACT UP in response to the 1980s AIDS crisis produced both backlash and effective change. In a chapter on organizational discipline, the authors examine how the Weather Underground's destructive approach essentially crippled the New Left. Although the authors write with clear passion regarding these examples of dramatic social change, they acknowledge that the Arab Spring has provided a counternarrative: "the revolution in Egypt presents a troubling case....Not all efforts to create change prevail over the long term." A usefully organized, concise history of social movements that will appeal to newer generations of activists.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2016

    How do short-term uprisings become long-term movements? Why are some protests sensationalized while others are forgotten? Mark Engler (How To Rule the World) and Paul Engler (founding director, Ctr. for the Working Poor) answer these questions successfully while profiling the work of Gene Sharp, a theorist of nonviolent action. Although nonviolence was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi's Salt March (1930) and Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birmingham Campaign (1963), the ideology dates to ancient Rome. The authors emphasize that uprisings don't have to triumph, they simply have to bring awareness to an issue, and when nonviolence is met with violence, it garners public sympathy. Other protests featured include Serbia's Bulldozer Revolution (2000), fueled by prankster group Otpor!; Egypt's controversial January 25 Revolution (2011), part of the Arab Spring; the boom-and-bust of Occupy Wall Street (2011); and how the court of public opinion influenced the fight for marriage equality and immigrant rights. Movements are led by upstarts, the authors maintain, because organizations have too much at stake and elected officials are often unable to change the status quo. Many activists are erased from history when politicians and powerbrokers take credit, such as Abraham Lincoln abolishing slavery. VERDICT Especially timely in the wake of protests across the United States, this book offers insight into how far we've come as a country and how much further we have to go.--Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century
Mark Engler
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