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Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare) [Paperback]

Erica Chenoweth , Maria Stephan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Dec 2012 Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare
For more than a century, from 1900 to 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their stated goals. By attracting impressive support from citizens, whose activism takes the form of protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other forms of nonviolent noncooperation, these efforts help separate regimes from their main sources of power and produce remarkable results, even in Iran, Burma, the Philippines, and the Palestinian Territories. Combining statistical analysis with case studies of specific countries and territories, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan detail the factors enabling such campaigns to succeed and, sometimes, causing them to fail. They find that nonviolent resistance presents fewer obstacles to moral and physical involvement and commitment, and that higher levels of participation contribute to enhanced resilience, greater opportunities for tactical innovation and civic disruption (and therefore less incentive for a regime to maintain its status quo), and shifts in loyalty among opponents' erstwhile supporters, including members of the military establishment. Chenoweth and Stephan conclude that successful nonviolent resistance ushers in more durable and internally peaceful democracies, which are less likely to regress into civil war. Presenting a rich, evidentiary argument, they originally and systematically compare violent and nonviolent outcomes in different historical periods and geographical contexts, debunking the myth that violence occurs because of structural and environmental factors and that it is necessary to achieve certain political goals. Instead, the authors discover, violent insurgency is rarely justifiable on strategic grounds.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (21 Dec 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231156839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231156837
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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This is the first major scholarly book to make a well-supported argument that, contrary to what many people believe, nonviolent resistance is more effective than armed resistance in overthrowing regimes, an advantage that is maintained even when the target is not democratic. -- Robert Jervis, Columbia University Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan offer a fresh, lively, and penetrating analysis of the conditions under which nonviolent resistance succeeds or fails. Using a wealth of data and in-depth case studies, they show that the scholarly emphasis on forceful approaches is misguided: nonviolent movements are often better able to mobilize supporters, resist regime crackdowns, develop innovative resistant techniques, and otherwise take on and defeat repressive regimes and build durable democracies. -- Daniel Byman, Georgetown University and senior fellow, Saban Center at the Brookings Institution After the breathtaking events of 2011, can anyone doubt that nonviolent civil resistance is an effective tool for political change? In this provocative, well-written, and compelling book, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan demonstrate that nonviolent civil resistance is usually a better way to force political change. They identify the conditions favoring its success and provide a convincing explanation for why nonviolent resistance is so effective. Their analysis is rigorous yet accessible, and their conclusions have profound implications for anyone seeking to understand -- or promote -- far-reaching social and political reform. -- Stephen Walt, Harvard University This is social science at its best. Years of critical study culminate in a book on one dominating issue: how does nonviolent opposition compare with violence in removing a regime or achieving secession? The authors study successes and failures and alternative diagnoses of success and failure, reaching a balanced judgment meriting careful study. -- Thomas C. Schelling, Harvard University, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics All of us dedicated to peaceful protest as a way to change the world can take heart from this book. -- Amitabh Pal Progressive 10/1/2011 The work belongs in all academic libraries... Highly recommended. Choice 3/1/12 Well researched, skillfully written, insightful, and timely. -- Joseph G. Bock Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict 7/1/12

About the Author

Erica Chenoweth is an assistant professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and an Associate Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. Previously she taught at Wesleyan University and held fellowships at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California at Berkeley. Maria J. Stephan is a strategic planner with the U.S. Department of State. Formerly she served as director of policy and research at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and American University. She has also been a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read That Challenges Common Assumptions 30 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Based on comprehensive reviews of civil society resistance events over more than a hundred years the authors successfully argue that non-violent resistance is at least as successful as violent resistance. The main factors are analyzed and the book allows the reader to develop further understanding of the mechanisms of resistance. "Why Civil Resistance Works" is strongly recommended to all that relate to fundamental changes in societies around the world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome research base on nonviolence 22 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I don't have time to offer a proper review and have only just got this book so not fully read yet, but what is immediately evident about its usefulness is that it is research based, with statistical analysis, graphical presentation, etc of what has been working, and not just narrative description (though there are also case studies with that, including Iran, Burma and the Intifada. We need a bit of the number crunching as well as the inspirational right brain stuff. Don't be put off by the cover, however. Can't think why they chose such prickly image, but probably the marketing department.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A game changer 5 Mar 2012
By Justin Whelan - Published on Amazon.com
This highly detailed book is a potential game changer in scholarly debates about the effectiveness of violent vs. nonviolent methods of struggle. Eschewing any interest in the morality questions about violence, Chenoworth and Stephan set out to demonstrate that the evidence is clear that nonviolent struggle ('civil resistance' as they call it) has the strategic edge. But rather than making arguments, they go back and look at the historical record.

Their evidence is overwhelming. By cataloging 323 campaigns from 1900-2006, the authors are able to demonstrate that civil resistance has been trice as likely to succeed as armed struggle in overthrowing regimes and resisting foreign occupations. Importantly, they find that the strategic advantage of civil resistance holds across all continents, across time (increasing each decade), across regime capacity and regardless of the level of repression used against the insurgency. In other words, even in the most difficult circumstances, civil resistance is a smarter option than violence. They also cover a range of potential explanations and caveats to their argument, systematically answering each in turn with yet more data. The authors certainly cannot be faulted for effort - they seem to have covered every possible angle.

Other key findings include: civil resistance is ten times as likely to lead to democratic outcomes as violence; pre-existing structural conditions have little impact on success (sorry, social movement theorists); international support has no significant impact on success for civil resistance campaigns but does for violent campaigns; and civil resistance campaigns are much less likely to be followed by ongoing violent conflict (something we are already beginning to see in Libya, the so-called 'success story' for violent intervention in recent times).

The book is densely populated with statistical tables, and there is an online appendix with even more data for scholars to dissect for themselves.

The case studies in the middle of the book help illuminate their statistical arguments, showing for example how unsuccessful violent campaigns failed but civil resistance worked in Iran and the Philippines, how civil resistance has achieved more than violence in Palestine, and examining the failure of both violence and civil resistance to date in Burma. Other brief examples are spread throughout each chapter as a helpful way of making sense of their findings.

This book is not for casual readers, but it is highly recommended for social movement scholars (for whom it will challenge many assumptions), foreign policy circles, and most importantly, movements around the world seeking to overthrow authoritarian regimes.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars most important book on nonviolence 29 Nov 2011
By Marc Simon - Published on Amazon.com
This is the most important book on nonviolence since Gene Sharp's Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973). Stephan and Chenoweth have given academic credibility to arguments that activists have been making for years. Nonviolent strategies are indeed more likely to succeed than violent ones; also, nonviolent revolutions are more likely to produce democratic outcomes; and nonviolent revolutions are less likely to see a recurrence of civil war. Their dataset of violent and nonviolent campaigns will lead others to build on these findings. Additional analysis and case studies show that nonviolence is more effective than violence because it is better able to mobilize more people. Though this seems rather simple, it turns out that people are the source of people power.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and inspiring! 30 Oct 2011
By Ohmygoodness - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent read for individuals aspiring to learn more about nonviolent conflict. It would be a great addition to any classroom discussion on the issue. The authors of this book are brilliant offering inspiring evidence about civil resistance with every turn of a page.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Review and Overview 16 Oct 2013
By Mohamed Abd-El-Maksoud - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has a very good review for the related research in the subject. It gives an overview of civil resistance and the reasons for its success. It goes in some detail. It also has a very interesting statistical study on civil resistance movements.

The only thing that I didn't like is that there is over simplification of the statistical data. Civil resistance against repressive regimes cannot be compared to civil resistance against democratic regimes. The data could have been dug into deeper than that.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple premise, excellent methodology 3 Mar 2013
By NextDoorGirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The point of this book is simple: Civil resistance (nonviolence) works and it often works better than violence. The authors go on to explain why this happens using sound quantitative methods and examples from all over the world. A must read.
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