University of Denver
The promises and pitfalls of 'people power', or nonviolent uprisings, have been a prominent topic of discussion in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 and in the face of recent movements against inequality in the US and elsewhere. In This is an Uprising, Engler & Engler carefully arrange the complex pieces of the puzzle that comprise a nonviolent movement, drawing from a range of campaigns as diverse as the US LGBT movement, the anti-Milosevic uprising in Serbia, Gandhi's campaign against British occupation, and many more. By linking social movement theory to the Gene Sharp-inspired tradition of civil resistance scholarship, the authors touch on a range of issues that are certain to be of value to those most in need of such a timely work of scholarship – activists throughout the globe. In their impressive analysis and practically step-by-step account of what it takes for movements to instil change, the authors highlight the critical strategic undertones of otherwise seemingly spontaneous uprisings. They devote the bulk of their account to explaining the complementarities of structure-based organizing and momentum-driven 'whirlwind' moments to show how detailed planning together with mass mobilization shapes the ability to engender lasting change. Instrumental demands that lead to incremental gains in line with a movement's overarching goals are just as important as symbolic demands that successfully dramatize an issue and rally public support behind a cause. Engler & Engler's accessible account of global movements seems to suggest that, in the end, it is the ability to convince the public that it should be on the movement's side that renders nonviolent victories a reality.