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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Erica Chenoweth, Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

Welcome Erica Chenoweth (University of Denver) ( (Twitter), Maria J. Stephan (United States Institute for Peace) (Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council) (Twitter) and Host Lewis C. Perry (Saint Louis University) (Organization of American Historians) (author, Civil Disobedience: An American Tradition)

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

In Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan review the scholarly literature on campaigns of popular and usually nonviolent resistance to undemocratic regimes in modern nations, including Iran, Burma, Palestine, and Israel. A table at the end and an online appendix refer to many other instances of nonviolence.

The authors conclude that “civil resistance” campaigns have often been effective (thus perhaps overcoming Malcolm X’s observation that “nonviolence is fine as long as it works,” which the authors quote at the outset). In an exhaustive and very valuable review of the literature on each nation, the authors find that civil resistance often has been successful, and they suggest explanations for why it sometimes has not.

The reasons may look a little different today than when the book appeared, shortly after events across North Africa encouraged optimism about the march of popular democratic change. But it still may be fair to say, as the authors quote Joan Baez,

“Nonviolence is a flop. The only bigger flop is violence.”

In fact, the authors are more optimistic about “nonviolent resistance” as a near-unstoppable force for change in our world, even in the most unlikely circumstances.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

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