A meeting was held at Madison’s Wil-Mar Center to present Part I and II of Gene Sharp’s book, “How Nonviolent Struggle Works,” on the influence of authoritative political power, Tuesday.
The discussion was led by David Williams, who presented the beginning of the book and share his own insight on the impact of nonviolence in politics.
Williams discussed the steps to achieving political power and how politicians gain authority, as well as methods of nonviolence.
“[Sharps is] mainly concerned in laying the theoretical framework in analyzing how power works in society. Nonviolent struggle is all about power,” Williams said. “Power is central to the discussion.”
Sharp’s division of power falls into two types: social and political power, Williams said. Social power is the totality of influence to control behavior, whereas political power is social power that is used for political objectives.
Madison residents encourage anti-fascists to learn self defense to protect themselves against far right movementThe Peregrine Forum, a group that promotes radical, green transformation for the world with community forums held a discussion Thursday about how Read…
Williams then discussed the monolithic and social views of power. He defined monolithic views of power to be when power flows from a ruler whereas social views of power is the power dependent on the support of the people.
To gain power, Williams explained Sharp’s step-by-step process.
The most important step to gain power is having authority.
“The first and most important [step] is authority. It’s like the natural authority that exists in society,” Williams said.
The next step is gaining access to human resources, Williams said. Followed by knowledge of the people, then controlling people through their subjective beliefs.
Next, Williams said, is having material sources, such as finance, property, economics and a means of communication or transportation.
The final step is sanctions, Williams said. Although sanctions are typically punitive, Sharp is talking about the force of obedience, which does not have to be overtly violent.
“[Sharp] believes that each specific instance of obedience and each specific reason given for obedience must operate through the will or volition of individuals,” Williams said. “I think that is true, but at the same time everybody recognizes as individuals we are overwhelmingly determined or influenced but the culture around us.”
There are then people who will obey those with power, Williams said. The reasons why people may obey, include habit, fear of sanctions, moral obligations, general acceptance and self-interest.
He also said, according to Sharp, some people obey others because they can “psychologically identify” with those in power.
Audience member Cindy Johnson, a librarian at the Madison Library said people psychologically identify with politicians, such as President Donald Trump.
She said national protests, such as Charolettseville and the NFL protests, “feeds” Trump into creating more controversy.
“Trump’s falling for it. He’s feeding it,” Johnson said.
With the power that authorities have, Williams said cooperation and obedience in government must be challenged with an obedience to resist mass oppression.
Libertarian author’s lecture met with opposition, protest from Madison communityWhen libertarian Charles Murray arrived at the Madison Club Wednesday to give a lecture on his most recent book, he Read…
But, many people are fighting for their beliefs incorrectly, Williams said. People will go to a protest with little plan, preparation or idea on how to “bend the social order.”
“What’s really needed is to approach this [authority] on a much more theoretical and conscious way,” Williams said.
In Sharp’s book, he developed a list of 198 nonviolent actions for political empowerment. He focused specifically on peaceful protests and nonviolent intervention.
Williams expressed his support of Sharp’s practice of nonviolent action. Staying away from violence is the key to success, he said.
“Most of the struggles have been carried out with relatively little violence under the advancement of democracy,” Williams said.