Srdja Popovic’s ‘Blueprint for Revolution’

Popovic writes in a very low-key, readable style. At times, it’s almost easy to forget that this is a writer who’s been involved in a difficult campaign in Serbia.

That’s a strength, in that it makes the book very approachable. You can plow through it in a day. It’s also in some ways off-putting at times – it feels as though Popovic can skate a little too confidently over what are complex issues. This is particularly the case where he talks about other countries, which he does a lot: Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Ukraine and others all feature in his examples.

The book largely does what it promises to do. He talks through a set of ideas about what is important in a campaign to bring about change. He avoids the trap of getting bogged down in overly detailed notes, or trying to tie them too specifically to particular events or structures.

Which is perhaps the weakness of the book, in that it’s not the kind of topic that can be dealt with in a book the way some things can, like a piece of history, or a complex theoretical issue. The book is good, but it’s a launching point rather than an answer.

Worth reading, though, if the full title intrigues you: Blueprint for revolution: How to use rice pudding, lego men, and other nonviolent techniques to galvanize communities, overthrow dictators, or simply change the world. 

Below are some of the quotes I found interesting:

  • ‘Every dictator, I explained, is a brand … And like all brands, dictators are desperate for market share and exposure’. I noted this mainly because it seems to fall into thinking of the world in terms of brands, which is a framework I’m not fond of.
  • Popovic (accurately, I think) argues that most people are uninterested in politics, for very valid reasons:
    • ‘… they also have a lot on their minds, things like jobs and kids and big dreams and small grievances and favorite TV shows to keep up with …’.
    • ‘… they want respect and dignity, they want their families to be safe, and they want honest pay for honest work.’
  • Highlights the need for unity: ‘ … a revolution only picks up steam once two or more groups that have nothing to do with one another decide to join together for their mutual benefit’.
  • Talks about power structure and asymmetry – this is something I know less about: ‘Every tyrant rests on economic pillars, and economic pillars are much easier targets than military bases or presidential palaces’.
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