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Nonviolent Struggle  

Stephen Zunes, Hardy Merriman, and Maria J. Stephan

Recent decades have witnessed a dramatic upsurge in the use of strategic nonviolent action as a method of political struggle worldwide, pressing governments and other institutions to change policies and even successfully ousting autocratic regimes. This has led to a growth in scholarly research on the history and dynamics of such popular civil resistance movements, along with growing empirical evidence indicating that nonviolent means are generally effective than armed resistance. Such nonviolent civil resistance is distinguished from pacifism in that it is not predicated on a principled commitment to nonviolence but out of recognition that it is the most effective means of popular struggle under the particular circumstances. Some theorists of nonviolent action advocate a more pluralistic model of power than found in traditional political science literature, emphasizing the withdrawal of consent, while others emphasize a structural analysis whereby the civil resistance targets pillars of support of a regime or other power holders. There are hundreds of methods of nonviolent resistance, which can be utilized in different circumstances and in varying phases of a struggle, which tend to result in higher levels of popular mobilization and defections by security forces and other regime supporters than armed methods.

Article

Civil Resistance  

Hardy Merriman

Civil resistance is a way for people—often those who have no special status or privilege—to wield power without the threat or use of violence. It consists of a range of acts of protests (e.g., mass demonstrations); noncooperation (e.g., strikes, boycotts); intervention (e.g., blockades, mass demonstrations); and the development of new relationships, behavior patterns, and organizations (e.g., alternative institutions). Diverse people from societies worldwide have engaged in civil resistance for millennia. Individuals can initiate acts of civil resistance spontaneously, and many have done so at some point in their lives, for example, by defying or reducing their cooperation with institutional policies as students or employees. However, the study of this field has focused on collective acts of civil resistance through popular movements and campaigns that are organized to achieve shared goals and involve some degree of strategic planning. While civil resistance can be used to advance an array of causes, much of the research has focused on efforts within societies to overcome authoritarian rule and advance democratic change. Scholarship in the field has developed at an accelerating pace in the early 21st century, as civil resistance becomes increasingly recognized as a powerful driver of political change and democratic development worldwide. The field concerns itself with a range of questions, including: How do ordinary people self-organize against powerful and oppressive adversaries? What is the interplay of structure and agency in determining the emergence and trajectories of civil resistance movements? What kinds of strategies increase a movement’s prospects of success? What counter-strategies are most effectively employed against movements? How do movements manage the repression used against them? What is the success rate of civil resistance movements compared to violent insurgencies? What kinds of long-term impacts do civil resistance movements have on societies? How is civil resistance effectively employed for a range of different causes? What is the relationship between civil resistance and other forms of addressing conflict such as electoral politics, negotiations, and peacebuilding? Why and how do civil resistance movements induce defections among their adversary’s supporters? How should international law regard civil resistance movements? What role can external actors play in supporting or inhibiting such movements?