Gene Sharp's contributions to the understanding of nonviolent action provide a useful lens for understanding developments in the field in recent decades. Sharp built on Gandhi's pioneering endeavours, but moved away from Gandhi by providing a pragmatic rationale for nonviolent action. Three important contributions by Sharp are his classification and cataloguing of methods of nonviolent action, his consent theory of power and his framework for understanding nonviolent campaigns. However, few academics have paid much attention to Sharp's work, and policy-makers have largely ignored it. In contrast, activists have taken up Sharp's ideas enthusiastically. Sharp is an imposing figure in the field of nonviolent action. Scholars and activists can learn from him, but also need to question and build on his ideas.