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Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare) Hardcover – August 9, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

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)

The work belongs in all academic libraries.... Highly recommended.

(Choice)

Well researched, skillfully written, insightful, and timely.

(Joseph G. Bock Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict)

Book Description

A surprising new study of nonviolent resistance and its viability in defeating oppressive regimes.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780231156820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231156820
  • ASIN: 0231156820
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Justin Whelan on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Marc Simon on November 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ohmygoodness on October 30, 2011
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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mohamed Rabie on October 16, 2013
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.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By NextDoorGirl on March 3, 2013
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant book on a very timely subject. It's a must read for anyone interested in learning about effective ways of waging struggle and actually winning. With all the so-called "force" of the U.S. military, we haven't exactly been doing too much winning in the last 50 years, now have we? This book shows how to change that and provides a path to dominance for those people and nations that learn these valuable lessons.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ewaffle on February 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
On the nonviolent/civil disobedience side we have Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi, Desmond Tutu and Vaclav Havel; lining up with the armed struggle/revolutionary violence folks are George Washington, Ho Chi Minh, Emiliano Zapata, Simon Bolivar and Michael Collins. Whether one picks up the gun or sits-in at the presidential palace will depend on moral, intellectual and emotional judgments informed by religious training and convictions, social class and political ambition. Plus a survival instinct--whether you have a better chance of remaining alive with the rebels in the jungle or the protesters in the streets. Chenoweth and Stephan look at a broad range of civil conflict, both violent and nonviolent, and come up with a non-intuitive but very well argued reason for choosing the road that leads to the Oslo City Hall on December 10.

Put very simply, nonviolence works better. They identify a number of reasons: lower barriers to active participation in nonviolent resistance by the population in general (easier to convince someone the carry a picket sign than throw a bomb), the disruptive effects of mass nonviolent noncooperation and the greater likelihood of shifting loyalties among regime loyalists and security forces. Additionally there are significantly fewer moral issues in civil resistance to a repressive regime than using weapons and killing to overthrow it.

"Why Civil Resistance Works" seems to be a model of social science investigation of political phenomena. "Seems" because, since I am neither a scientist nor particularly social, I can't judge their methodology. My only criticism is their sometimes artificial decision of when a campaign against an authoritarian government ends and therefore which of them succeeded and which failed.
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