Social unity can benefit from planning. When people not only work together but also plan, strategize and organize their common efforts, they enhance their strength.
Gene Sharp is a political theorist whose work is credited with informing grass-roots democratic uprisings in Europe and Egypt. A main point of contention in his work is that rulers have no power if the people do not obey. He has devised strategies for non-violent resistance against unpopular rulers. Some of his writings are available to download at the website for The Albert Einstein Institute. His works include:
- Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle(Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973).
- Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Two: The Methods of Nonviolent Action (Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973).
- Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action (Porter Sargent Publishers, 1985).
- Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation (Albert Einstein Institute, 2003).
- Gene Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential (Horizons Books, 2005).
- Gene Sharp, The Role of Power in Nonviolent Struggle (Albert Einstein Institute, 1990).
- Gene Sharp, Social Power and Political Freedom (Porter Sargent Publishers, 1980).
- Ronald M. McCarthy and Gene Sharp, Nonviolent Action: A Research Guide(Routledge, 1997).
- Gene Sharp, National Security Through Civilian-Based Defense (Civilian Based Defense Association, 1985).
- Gene Sharp leading seminar for members of the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, Mannerplaw, Burma October 1992.
Other books on organization:
- Benn Steil, The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War (Simon & Schuster, 2018): “Steil has written an ambitious, deeply researched narrative that not only delineates the interlocking gears of international politics and economics in early post-war Europe but also introduces a large cast of statesmen, spies and economists that perhaps only Dickens could have corralled with ease.”
- C. Grayling, Democracy and Its Crisis (Oneworld, 2017): “ . . . in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit, democracy has been ‘made to fail.’ Why has this happened? Because of insufficient checks on the power of political and economic elites, a failure in the civic education required of an informed populace and the ideological distortions created through the lobbying efforts of special interests.”
- Thomas Keneally, Three Famines: Starvation and Politics (PublicAffairs, 2011): “ . . . Keneally . . . closely studies three of the greatest hungers in history: the Irish potato famine that began in 1845, the Bengal famine that raged in 1943 and 1944, and the Ethiopian famines of the 1970s and ’80s.”
- Eric Foner, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019): “ . . . the failure of the United States ‘to build an egalitarian society on the ashes of slavery’ between 1865 and 1877 — the years conventionally associated with Reconstruction — left defining national issues unresolved: who should have the right to vote; who should get citizenship and the imprimatur of belonging in the United States; and how to provide equal opportunity for people who lack wealth and power.”
- Lizabeth Cohen, Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Urban Age (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019): “. . . in his heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, he had a near-hagiographic national reputation as the wizard redeveloper of New Haven, Boston and beyond. Today, less than two decades after his death, few outside the urban-planning world even think about him. Those who do generally regard most of his huge projects as failures.”
- Thomas Dyja, New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation (Simon & Schuster, 2021): “How New York City Pulled Itself Out of the Lower Depths”.
- Linda Colley, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World (Liveright, 2021): “At a time when many are questioning the future of democracy, it is worth remembering how important and precious (constitutions) are.”
- Dennis Duncan, Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure, from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age (W.W. Norton & Co., 2022): “A Smart, Playful Book About the Underappreciated Index”.
From the dark side, organization as power abused:
- Stephen Kotkin, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 (Penguin Press, 2014): “. . . Stalin decides to starve Russia almost to death to bring peasants under state control. That, Mr. Kotkin has already declared, was an assault on the peasantry for which there was no political or social logic, and that only Stalin could have done.”
- Stephen Kotkin, Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (Penguin Press, 2017): “Slowly but inexorably, Kotkin teases out his subject’s contradictions, revealing Stalin as both ideologue and opportunist, man of iron will and creature of the Soviet system, creep who apparently drove his wife to suicide and leader who inspired his people.”
- Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life (Viking, 2014): “Roberts brilliantly conveys the sheer energy and presence of Napoleon the organizational and military whirlwind who, through crisp and incessant questioning, sized up people and problems and got things done.”
- Michael V. Hayden, The Assault On Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (Penguin Press, 2018): “A former C.I.A. director savages (Trump’s) disregard for his own intelligence community.”
- Nicholas Lemann, Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019): “In the service of maximizing shareholder value, investors and their allies dismantled the corporate and government edifices that had done so much good — high wages, company research labs, rigorous regulation and redistributive taxation. Institutions were out. Transactions were in.”
- Roger McNamee, Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe (Penguin Press, 2019): “At its peak the planet’s fourth most valuable company, and arguably its most influential, is controlled almost entirely by a young man with the charisma of a geometry T.A.”
- Mitchell Zuckoff, Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend (Random House, 2005): an “entertaining portrait of the dapper rogue who persuaded 30,000 people, Bostonians and others, many of them Italian immigrants like Ponzi himself, to entrust him with their hard-earned, pre-inflationary dollars.”
- Andrew Marantz, Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation (Viking, 2019): “Forget the decline of gatekeepers. Imagine a world bereft of gates and uncrossable lines, with no discernible rules. That’s the Hadean landscape that has been painted expertly, in dark hues . . .”
- Jerry Soni, The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley (Simon & Schuster, 2022): “. . . PayPal’s origin story, though essentially an ensemble piece, features two of the more complicated antiheroes of our time: Peter Thiel, who has become a significant player in right-wing politics, and Elon Musk, currently the richest person in the world . . .”
- Gary Gerstle, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the Free World in the Free Market Era (Oxford University Press, 2022): “Ronald Reagan’s New Economic Order, and What It Meant for America”.
- Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel, Dead in the Water: A True Story of Hijacking, Murder, and a Global Maritime Conspiracy (Portfolio, 2022): “. . . it is hard enough to figure out who owns a vessel, much less who should foot the bill if it founders. This system works to keep the industry rich and protected, but it also presents opportunities for the unscrupulous, in this case a colorful Greek magnate named Marios Iliopoulos, the Brillante’s owner, who was found to have staged the hijacking and destruction of his own vessel.”
- Chris Miller, Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology (Scribner, 2022): in 1965, Gordon E. Moore “predicted that the number of transistors that an engineer could cram on a chip of silicon would double about every two years. This projection has been borne out so impressively over the decades that it is now known as Moore’s Law. Sixty years ago, four transistors could fit on a chip. Today some 11.8 billion can.”
Disorganization: anti-governmentalism and anarchism:
- Jefferson Cowie, Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power (Basic Books, 2022), “traces the close association between the rhetoric of liberty in an Alabama county and the politics of white supremacy.”
- Jesse Cohn, Underground Passages: Anarchist Resistance Culture, 1848-2011 (AK Press, 2015).
- Pëtr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread (1892).
- Abel Paz, Durruti in the Spanish Revolution (AK Press, 2006): “We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts.”.
Technical and Analytical Readings
How do advanced societies devise and implement rules, laws and social norms to reconcile competing interests? This is among the most formidable of challenges in contemporary life in developed societies. We are fortunate that these issues have become our concerns. Following are just a few of the topics that have arisen.
In the United States, Jeffersonian (reflexively small government) economics versus Hamiltonian (active government) philosophies and their corresponding politics:
- Michael Lind, Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, 2012): drawing the conflict between “a small-government Jeffersonian perspective that abhors bigness and holds that prosperity flows from competition among independent businessmen . . . (and) a Hamiltonian agenda that believes a large, powerful country needs large, powerful organizations.”
- Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (Simon & Schuster, 2016): “This is the story of how government helped make America great, how the enthusiasm for bashing government is behind its current malaise and how a return to effective government is the answer the nation is looking for.”
- William N. Goetzmann, Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible (Princeton University Press, 2016): “His goal is to explore the consequences of the invention and growth of finance for whole societies. As his title suggests, his conclusion is that they are firmly positive. Financially advanced societies, he argues, are very different from financially primitive ones — and not just in that they have more money.”
Ethical issues surrounding organ transplant surgeries:
- Nicholas L. Tilney, Transplant: From Myth to Reality (Yale University Press, 2003): a history of organ donation from all sides, including its commercial aspects.
- Ronald Munson, Raising the Dead: Organ Transplants, Ethics, and Society (Oxford University Press, 2002).
- Donald McRae, Every Second Counts: The Race to Transplant the First Human Heart (Putnam Adult, 2006).
- Anne-Maree Farrell, David Price and Muireann Quigley, eds., Organ Shortage: Ethics, Law and Pragmatism (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
- William R. DeLong, Organ Transplantation in Religious, Ethical, and Social Context: No Room for Death (Routledge, 1993).
- David Price, Human Tissue in Transplantation and Research: A Modern Legal and Ethical Donation Framework (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
- David P.T. Price, Legal and Ethical Aspects of Organ Transplantation (Cambridge University Press, 2001).
Documentary and Educational Films
- Planet Ant: Life Inside the Colony
- How Ant Colonies Get Things Done
- Bee Army: How They Protect the Queen Bee
- Arshile Gorky, Organization (1933-36)
- Diego Rivera, The Organization of the Agrarian Movement (1926)
Film and Stage
From the dark side:
- Ashes and Diamonds, “a melancholy recapitulation on the political and social chaos at the end of” World War II
- Bob Roberts, on how charlatans have turned the political system has been turned inside-out, with a gullible and inattentive people’s help
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Bach’s cantatas illustrate the desideratum of organization. In them, Bach pulls together orchestra, choir and soloists, within tight musical compositions. In addition, he composed his sacred cantatas to be performed on certain Sundays and holidays, according to the Lutheran Church’s liturgical calendar. From Bach’s 224 cantatas, a few examples follow.
- bwv 4, 80
- bwv 139, 163, 52, 140
- bwv 147, 80, 8
- bwv 17, 84, 95, 161
- bwv 54, 161, 208
- bwv 100, 14, 197, 197a
- bwv 149, 14, 29, 192
- cantatas conducted by Masaaki Suzuki
- four hours of cantatas, peformed under Karl Richter’s direction
- a 50-track playlist of Bach’s cantatas
- bwv 51
- bwv 199
- bwv 140
- bwv 208
- bwv 212
- Robert Simpson describes Nielsen’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 7, as “probably the most highly organized first symphony ever written by an young man of twenty-seven.”
- Carter, String Quartet No. 1 (1951): “ . . . of all the musical variables temporal structure was of paramount concern. Articulating the difference between real time, objective time of the world around us, and psychological time . . . led the composer to invent a startingly original formal plan.” [From the liner notes to the two-disc set of Carter’s string quartets from The Julliard String Quartet.]
- Tom Rainey Trio, “Combobulated” (2019) (53') (brought out of a state of disorder)
These four ruffians formed a sort of Proteus, winding like a serpent among the police, and striving to escape Vidocq's indiscreet glances "under divers forms, tree, flame, fountain," lending each other their names and their traps, hiding in their own shadows, boxes with secret compartments and refuges for each other, stripping off their personalities, as one removes his false nose at a masked ball, sometimes simplifying matters to the point of consisting of but one individual, sometimes multiplying themselves to such a point that Coco-Latour himself took them for a whole throng. These four men were not four men; they were a sort of mysterious robber with four heads, operating on a grand scale on Paris; they were that monstrous polyp of evil, which inhabits the crypt of society. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume III – Marius; Book Seventh – Patron Minette, Chapter IV, Composition of the Troupe.]
- Emily Nemens, The Cactus League: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020): “Nemens’s real subject here is less the game of baseball itself, though she’s quite good at describing it, than its infrastructure, all the lives that professional baseball embraces.”
Anti-organization: novels and stories about anarchism:
- Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (1907), is “about an anarchist plot to blow up the Royal Observatory at Greenwich . . .”
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed: A Novel (Harper & Row, 1974): “This tale of neighbouring planets occupied by anarchists and capitalists reminds us that the old left has plenty to teach us.”