by Fr. John Dear, SJ
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Nonviolence is fine as long as it works,” Malcolm X once said. Recently, Columbia University Press published an extraordinary scholarly book that proves how nonviolence works far better as a method for social change than violence. This breakthrough book demonstrates that Gandhi was right, that the method of nonviolent resistance as a way to social change usually leads to a more lasting peace while violence usually fails.
Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan uses graphs, charts, sociological research and statistical analysis to show how in the last century, nonviolent movements were far better at mobilizing supporters, resisting regime crackdowns, creating new initiatives, defeating repressive regimes and establishing lasting democracies. Their evidence points to the conclusion that nonviolent resistance is more effective than armed resistance in overturning oppressive and repressive regimes and in leading to more democratic societies.
This report should cause the whole world to stop in its tracks and take up nonviolent conflict resolution and nonviolent resistance to injustice instead of the tired, old, obsolete methods of war and violence.
Why Civil Resistance Works is the first systematic study of its kind and takes us well beyond the research of Gene Sharp and others to demonstrate once and for all the power of nonviolent civil resistance for positive social change. Anyone interested in the methodology of nonviolent conflict resolution should get this book and study it. Indeed, one wishes the State Department and the government would learn its lessons, renounce its violence and start supporting nonviolent, people-power movements…