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This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,054 ratings  ·  158 reviews
There is a craft to uprising -- and this craft can change the world

From protests around climate change and immigrant rights, to Occupy, the Arab Spring, and #BlackLivesMatter, a new generation is unleashing strategic nonviolent action to shape public debate and force political change. When mass movements erupt onto our television screens, the media consistently portrays t
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Bold Type Books
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Dave Schaafsma
I figure with the human race facing its possible end in this very century, that hopelessness may not be a productive emotion. I mean, I completely understand despair and paralyzing fear and blind hedonistic escapism, been there, but days of productive disruption against the corporate state may be a better use of my time. And not alone, but with others, preferably; for instance, my largely individualistic pacifist stance has done little in recent years to stop endless international war, I’ve noti ...more
Sabrina Williams
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For anyone interested in understanding how nonviolent social movements are born, evolve and either fail or succeed, this is the book for you! The Engler brothers walk readers through some of the most inspiring movements and discuss, with both anecdotal and empirical evidence, how these movements either changed the world or petered out and died ugly deaths. There is real research quoted in this book and you might be surprised to find that most social movements need only 3.5% of the population to ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good variety of examples, useful in understanding non-violence in utilitarian terms, doesn't change that I'm a pacifist for moral reasons but still useful to understand how to manipulate that mon-violence. Although I still don't know how I feel personally about non-violence with the intention of sparkling violence in others. But a good, informative read. ...more
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A clear, nuanced, and illuminative analysis of "nonviolent resistance" as a tool for social change -- both as it's been theorized and as it's been practiced, and as it continues to evolve. The authors do an excellent job of bringing historical figures and contemporary movements to life, fairly portraying the competing/complementary strands of progressive activism, and diplomatically dispelling myths about history's heroes. They argue, persuasively, that humanity is best served when structurally ...more
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political-stuff
I loved this book. A lot of us who have been involved in organizing that felt like we were eking out incremental wins, and then get caught up in a wave of movement activity like Occupy wondered how it all worked. I feel like this books goes a long way to spelling out how social change occurs that lets us be far more ambitious and effective.

I'm excited to go home and organize a study group of other activists to talk about how to apply the lessons.
Jan 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazingly in-depth look at how non-violent movements have advanced and/or accelerated social change for a variety of marginalized groups across the globe. This goes well beyond what we tend to think of when we hear of non-violent resistance (e.g. American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s). I would love to see an updated edition of this as it was published in 2016 before...er...um...well, just before. I am curious how #BLM and #MeToo would be covered. This book examines the important ...more
Sean Estelle
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: organizing
Clear, no-nonsense explanation of the theory and practice behind what the Englers hope will spark a new organizing tradition in the United States. Historically grounded, while also asking provocative questions about how to learn lessons from history and apply it to today's organizing context. Must-read (if for no other reason than to be able to hold a conversation with the growing cross-sections of the Movement centering their work around this theory of change); still have questions about how to ...more
Rita	 Marie
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-nonfiction
This book is a trifle wordy and dry, but well worth the effort to read. It begins with Gandhi and brings us right up to the Occupy movement, using familiar examples along the way to show what works and what doesn't work and why. I found it both enlightening and encouraging. It's good to know that an unpopular government cannot stand against massive civil disobedience. Resistance is NOT futile. #Resist ...more
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mike Kaib

As a union organizer, someone based in organizing through a structure, this book challenged me to think about how a momentum driven campaign could push the labor movement faster and higher.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to build on the victories the movement for justice has already achieved.
Dana Sweeney
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An extremely important (and readable) synthesis of several major thinkers in the field of civil resistance. This book fairly outlines the longstanding debate between structural organizing and mass movements as drivers of social change, and it details a compelling and emergent fusion of these schools (momentum-driven organizing).

This book isn't particularly dense or theoretical, so it's a great place to jump into this area of study if it is new to you or if you are looking for leads to further r
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wish there were 6 stars. This book was game changing for me as I try to navigate the new space that is organizing. I'm going to buy a hardcopy (borrowed audiobook from library) and gift it to fellow Sunrise members. It is gold wrapped gold leaf. At least that's how I'm feeling after reading Rules For Radicals and then this. Also gives you lots of names of other authors/theorist of organizers so it's essentially a summary that leads to an extensive reading list. ...more
Vannessa Anderson
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-history
A laborious read with nothing new to add on the subject.
Brent Ranalli
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics-society
Popular uprisings and mass movements are mysterious phenomena. They appear to come out of nowhere and disappear back into nowhere; since they lack a conventional hierarchy it may not be clear who speaks for them. Journalists frequently describe them as "emotional" and irrational outbursts. Scholars have long considered them unpredictable and opaque, unsuitable for analysis in the terms normally used to study social movements.

In "This Is an Uprising," Mark and Paul Engler cut through the confusio
Camille McCarthy
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was the perfect book to finish right before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This book is almost a manual for methods of nonviolence and how to make nonviolent action more effective. It has many examples which are thoroughly analyzed and it clearly outlines the strengths and weaknesses of both structure-based organizing and movement-driven mobilization, and how to combine the two effectively. For anyone who is interested in pushing for positive change, especially in today's world, this is a mus ...more
Horace Derwent
Apr 15, 2022 marked it as to-read

BY 1963, THE Dorchester retreat center near
Savannah, Georgia, had emerged as a buzzing hub of
activity for the civil rights movement in the American
South. The site where Project C was hatched was also
the home of a thriving social movement ecology.
With the help of veteran organizers at the Highlander
Folk School, the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference had renovated the facilities at a former
missionary school located just a few miles off Georgia’s
Atlantic coast. Starting in 1961, the
Geoffrey Bateman
Excellent book, and excellent overview to nonviolent and civil resistance, with a compelling range of examples, campaigns, and movements. It's provides very insightful ways to frame social movements and organizing for social transformation, providing smart evaluations of various approaches. It's also just really well written. I wanted to see if it would be a good text for one of the courses I am teaching this fall, and it's definitely going on the list! ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful history and practical guide to non-violent revolutions.
Martin Smrek
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very impressive strategic reflection on the social movements of the past decades, offering some basic blueprints for delivering social change.
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought this was an excellent book. I had actually never heard of it until a member of the Sunrise Movement recommended it to me, and much of the ideas and strategies discussed are what Sunrise is doing to fight inaction on the climate crisis.

Like many others, before I read the book I appreciated the idea of nonviolent action in principle, but didn't really feel it accomplished much other than maybe some small, incremental change--even the civil rights movement gained attention only after vio
Patrick Walsh
Mar 25, 2021 rated it liked it
This Is an Too Long Book

However: made me think more about the origins, craft, and intention of movements and how they may not be given the credit they deserve in changing society.
Brandon Ho
May 03, 2021 rated it it was ok
Honestly, the book read well up till the halfway mark where it began to feel more and more like an essay being dragged out.

This is one of those cases where less would’ve been more.
Artūrs Kaņepājs
Jul 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Very practical. Though there have been many new developments, movements, insurrections since 2016. I wonder how those would fit in the framework outlined in this book.
Micah Langer
Dec 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Momentum-driven organizing is a very compelling notion, but it strikes me as bit too neat, too pat, too concise. Maybe it looks good on paper, but I doubt it is really possible for any one person or group to reconcile the opposing tides of movement and institution-based organizing. At best, I think the ideas in this book amount to a convincing argument for representatives of both "sides" of this equation to acknowledge their interdependence and work together for mutual benefit. At worst, the boo ...more
Jim Angstadt
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century
by Mark Engler, Paul Engler

Notes while reading

- Throughout history there have been war and non-violent resistance.
- Recently, MLK, Serbia, arab spring, Occupy Wall street.
- Media talks of these as spontaneous, but often times they are not.

Chap 1,
- Strategic Turn. Gene Sharp, a Korean war resister goes to jail for 10 months.
- Later becomes an authority on the theory of non-violent revolution.
- principle
Dave McNeely
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This Is an Uprising is an excellent introduction to social change in both practice and theory over the past 100 years. What the brothers Engler master in this overarching account is the ability to take notable historical social change movements (from Occupy Wall Street to the Serbian Revolution to Tahrir Square, with Gandhi and the Civil Rights struggle as recurring touchpoints) and put contrasting theoriticians in dialogue with each other regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each movement. ...more
Joy Weese Moll
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the 21st century, we’ve seen the call for the ouster of Milošević in Serbia, the Arab Spring, and Black Lives Matter all erupt into large movements that changed how we think about the ways that ordinary people disrupt the status quo and create the conditions for change in institutions that seemed impregnable and rigid. These movements build on previous work by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but they also make use of modern technologies and techniques. In all cases, nonviolent strategies were ...more
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I am thoroughly interested in this topic; I only wish that the writers would've risen to the occasion. Much of what is at fault here is actual evidence. I found the writing resembled more like an introduction -- with vague but bold claims that never really revealed themselves. I could not tell if the authors assumed their readers would have intimate knowledge or that they didn't think information was absolutely necessary, such as going into any detail regarding their claims. On the other hand, I ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting history of non violent protest and resistance in the 20th century. Focuses primarily on the "west" w/ light analysis of the Arab Spring. Reads as a bit revisionist. Especially w/ Otpor. Also a shame that movements that advocated reasonable self-defense (i.e. the Black Panthers) were not given much credence. Kind of bougie White in that sense... That said, the overall advocacy for non violent theory and practice as an effective tactic against injustice is was well throughout and argue ...more
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read this as part of a book club. Really great reading for people interested in changing the system, and we have so much change to bring about! Well documented, but easy to read study of the success and failure of various social and political movements around the world. It identifies the common traits that must be present to build a movement and maintain gains etc. Also very importantly, reminds us of the way we often give credit to the political leaders for major changes when they never would h ...more
Adam Ross
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics, culture
This might be one of the most important books on community organizing and effecting change I have ever read. The Englers have put together a book that is the anatomy of revolt, not just against dictators and tyrants, but against all forms of governments resistant to change. The field of research into nonviolent civil protest and activism has advanced quite a ways since Alinsky was around, and this book is an in-depth investigation of each of the pieces. Necessary reading for any group wanting to ...more
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Writer based in Philly, author of This Is An Uprising, board member at Dissent.

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4 likes · 1 comments
“Violent crackdowns against unarmed protests end up exposing the brutality of a ruling force, undermining its legitimacy, and, in many cases, creating wider public unwillingness to cooperate with its mandates. Niccolò Machiavelli recognized this dynamic as early as the 1500s. Of the leader who seeks to impose his rule on a mass of hostile people, he wrote: “the greater his cruelty, the weaker does his regime become.” 4 likes
“Nonviolent conflict allows activists to highlight the systemic violence that exists in society and that usually goes unrecognized—the violence, for example, of routine and persistent police brutality, of economic displacement and exploitation, of wanton environmental destruction, or of racist criminalization and imprisonment of entire communities. As Martin Luther King Jr. argued, nonviolent direct action allows activists to “bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” Yet, if activists turn to violence themselves, it allows authorities to institute expanded repression in the name of restoring a state of “peace” in which systemic abuses are once again submerged.32” 4 likes
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