There Are Realistic Alternatives

by Gene Sharp

Violence in society and politics, whether in the form of war, terrorism, dictatorship, oppression, usurpation, or genocide, is widely recognized as a grave problem.

All the proposals to solve the problem of violence, or particular expressions of it, have been unsuccessful. It is probable that the problem remains unsolved because such proposals have been based on inadequate understandings of its nature. Without understanding a problem, it is difficult, if not impossible, to solve it.

The objective of this essay is to explore a different perspective on the nature of the problem of widespread violence in society and politics that suggests what will be required for its resolution.

We need to analyze the conditions under which it will be possible to reduce drastically the reliance on military and other violent means of conflict. We need to examine why violence is so widely regarded as necessary for good causes as well as for bad ones, and how fundamental change away from that syndrome might be achieved.

The perspective in this essay is simple, but perhaps fundamental to solving the problem of violence in political and international conflicts.

It is important to recognize that conflict in society and politics is inevitable and, in many cases, desirable. Some conflicts can be resolved by mild methods, such as negotiation, dialogue, and conciliation–methods that involve compromise. These are feasible when the issues at stake are not fundamental. Even then, the resolution of a conflict by negotiation is more often influenced by the relative power capacities of the contenders than by reasoned joint assessment of where justice lies.

Read the pdf of the complete article here: There Are Realistic Alternatives

EDITOR’S NOTE: We wish to thank Gene Sharp for permission to repost this work. Hard copies of the pamphlet are available for purchase from the Albert Einstein Institution.

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi