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Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
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Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

(Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  301 ratings  ·  37 reviews
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 regi ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 28th 2011 by Columbia University Press (first published July 8th 2011)
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Sabrina Williams
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book! Chenoweth and Stephan do a superb job of showing the reader how and why nonviolent movements are superior vis-a-vis violent movements. It's clear that they painstakingly went through years of resistance movements and their idiosyncrasies and tried to figure out if they were successful in achieving their goals and why this was so. The book is filed with data, analysis, examples and case studies. Perfect read for folks wanting to understand WHY nonviolence works and why is often a ...more
Martin Smrek
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: campaigning, strategy
Interesting insight into effectivness of nonviolent strategies and tactics. The book covers more than a century of social conflict and provides a scientific analysis of violent and nonviolent campaigns, while providing explanation of the key success/failure factors at play, while ilustrating them in a couple of case studies. In the end, the book provides a set of characteristics your movement should definitely have in order to raise it's chances of winning and delivering social change even under ...more
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great book. A little dry, but I liked some of the stories, especially about mass protesters in the Philippines who surrounded soldiers, offering them flowers and chocolate and inviting the soldiers to join them. Oh also the "confetti demonstrations" in the business district of Manila where 100,000 office workers marched in the streets as protesters threw down yellow pieces of shredded phone books from the skyscrapers. That's awesome.

Basic take-away from the book: Nonviolent campaigns usually wor
Oct 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
I tried to like this book. I tried to READ this book. I didn't finish it, I didn't even get through the third chapter. I am a huge fan of civil resistance and nonviolence and thus really wanted to like this book. But I just couldn't. It reads like a college essay. The whole first chapter is the authors quipping about how their research is better than any other research on the subject. And what I did read appeared to be them saying the same things over and over again while simply rearranging the ...more
Martin Empson
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
An interesting book that has several major flaws, particularly when considering the question of state power. But the book is much more nuanced than many of the crude summaries of this work that are common within some social movements today. My full review: ...more
Rus Funk
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very good examination of why nonviolence succeeds, by multiple indicators, over violence.
It is a text book and written for scholars and students but is still worth adding to your library.
Antti Rasinen
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating book. A short confession: I am against political violence. The rating I've given might be in part due to the book agreeing with my views.

Now that I've said that, the book is wonderful. It presents the idea that non-violent mass movements are the most effective way to topple repressive governments or acquire concessions from them. The researches have a data set of two hundred and some insurgencies, which they analyze from multiple angles. The first part of the book covers the t
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonviolence
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. Pl ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review first published on My Blog.

An in-depth study and analysis of how successful nonviolent and violent campaigns are historically. The thesis is that non-violent campaigns are more successful at achieving their results long-term and since they were looking mostly at regime changes, ending up in a more democratic government as well. They reviewed campaigns going back to 1900 and wrote about 4 specific case studies in the book to illustrate specific points (Iran, Philippines, Burma, and Israel/
Ben Lever
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
This was a little more academic than I expected it to be but still very accessible. Its message is very important, too - the data is in and violent insurgency is not a rational last-resort tactic that will succeed when all else fails. It's all statistical, of course, but the truth is that nonviolent civil resistance is more likely to succeed, more likely to result in peaceful democracy (as opposed to the insurgents taking over and being just as bad as the last lot), and safer to participate in. ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very excellent study about the efficacy of nonviolent civil resistance.

My only beef with it is that the definitions of "nonviolent" and "violent" resistance campaigns is not given a lot of analysis. Early on in the book, the authors correctly state that "Few campaigns, historically, have been purely violent or nonviolent, and many resistance movements [...] have had violent and nonviolent periods. Armed and unarmed often operate simultaneously in the same struggle." Unfortunately, this complex
Elizabeth ✨
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book I read a few years ago and it’s really cool and interesting. The authors analyze case studies of nonviolent resistance movements from the past 100 years or so to identify what makes these movements effective (more so than violent uprisings). I think this topic is complicated, and it’s easy as person with more privilege/less experiences of oppression to advocate for nonviolent resistance, so I appreciate this book attempting to look more objectively at how effective these movements are ...more
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had to give this 5 stars. Not because I think this was good reading. It wasn't. Not because I think they did a good job at writing a book. They didn't. They essentially wrote an extended metastudy or a dissertation. This isn't a book for anyone to read who doesn't already have some sort of background in science to understand everything they're saying and not saying. I gave this 5 stars because it's good and necessary work.

With that said, would I recommend this to anyone? Hell no. I cannot ima
Chenoweth and Stephan argue that nonviolent resistance movements are more likely to succeed than violent resistance movements. They analyze 323 violent and nonviolent resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2006, for regime change, territorial goals such as secession or evicting occupying forces, and other goals such as antiapartheid. They discuss how they sorted campaigns into violent and nonviolent categories, given that some groups may have violent and nonviolent phases or subgroups. They discu ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Why Civil Resistance Works feels like one of the most important books I'll read this year (yes, I know it's only February). It's incredibly well cited and researched, and I don't know enough about statistics to judge whether they're used well, but I trust Erica Chenoweth, so I believe her when she tells me what they mean. 

The basic thesis of Why Civil Resistance Works is that with non-violent resistance, there is a wider base of participation, due to lower informational, moral, and commitment ba
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am co-worker of one of the co-authors of this book at the US Institute of Peace, but we don't work on the same team and I haven't discussed this book with her.)

This is a clearly-written account of how nonviolent resistance movements have succeeded in achieving their goals, which based on the authors' data has occurred at a rate exceeding those of violent resistance movements. While the choice of tactics is not in and of itself predictive of certain success
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: world, politics
A big problem with this boom it that is doesn't ask 'how did the result affect relationships with superpowers'?
Bizarrely, it calls the 1949 creation of Israel a successful protest against the British, while calling the Palestinian landowners 'resistance'.
There is no analysis of the use of US and Soviet influence (the American University is famous for its activities and participants in Iran and the Middle East have openly talked about their activities.
With most weapons being produced in the USA a
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and well researched book that makes a strong and convincing case for civil resistance and nonviolent campaigns

Thorough and systematic quantitative analysis ruled out confounding factors and issues of endogeneity (that is if nonviolent resistance proved to be a symptom of a high probability of campaign success rather than the cause of success, or that the conditions that motivate the choice to use violent resistance are the same conditions that predict campaign failure), although I foun
Stephen Hanna
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A well written essay providing a convincing argument, qualitatively but primarily quantitatively, for nonviolent revolution.

Nonviolent protests is about 2x as effective as violent protests in achieving its goals historically worldwide, but is especially more effective in America's context. Mass mobilization and structured movements are both means of nonviolent protest, with structured movements used for transactional politics and mass mobilization a means to change cultural values. Symbolic prog
Anastasia Zamkinos
Feb 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Thoroughly researched and interesting content, dry delivery made me gloss over several chunks... An excellent reference text but not a cover-to-cover for me.

Key take aways: nonviolent movements succeed more often than violent ones, there are a few key factors that make them more likely to work, and violent ones even if they do succeed are less likely to end in democracy or stability. Represented through case studies and graphs and statistical analyses.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely amazing book that really breaks down civil resistance and the steps that go into it. This was one of the main books that I used for the writing of my senior thesis in college and I still find myself picking it up to refresh myself in this area. If you are at all interested in strategic nonviolence, you won't regret reading this book!
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book has its merit, its core argument can be finished easily in half its current size. The book needs major editing -- dry academic writing style, repetition of the same point in almost every paragraph, etc. All of the above make the book hard to read. (Sorry to say but it reads like Nielsen/Kantar Companies' reports!!!)
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Read the following before or after this book. Part 2 is coming out soon apparently. I think this is a better explication of Sharp's ideology: ...more
Suhail Khan
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not your typical popular read on political studies. This is a scholarly work with statistical modeling, case studies and analyses. I read it while following India's civil resistance against the new bill and the book does throw some insights on why a civil resistance does or does not work.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a little dry but the information and analysis are excellent.
Kyle Christian
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spoiler only insofar as the book title itself is a spoiler.

Firstly, as a pacifist and someone who is diametrically opposed to violence, I am glad that this work not only exists, but demonstrates the significance and importance of non-violent civil resistance. I often feared that non-violent civil unrest in the world was only superior in that it holds the moral high-ground and only works in extraordinarily narrow confines, with little practical reason to participate in face of adversity. And I fe
Alexandra Lehmann
This book's concept is pretty huge and its case studies work to prove it.
It lacked, however, mention of the Czech resistance which successfully dealt with Heinrich Himmler, the chief architect of the Final Solution. It also did not mention Sophie Scholl's led student resistance in Munich, which history has proven a success - if only for its courage and timeless example of what is possible under a dictatorship. When I attempted to reach the author to ask why she did not include both of these mov
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-reading
Excellent and well laid-out research on the facts surrounding the efficacy of nonviolence in social movements ranging from national revolutions to small-scale worker's strikes. There were times though where I had disagreements with the exact reasons used to name a particular movement as a "success" or "failure". However, researchers looking for empirical evidence to back up theories on nonviolent vs. violent change will find much to use here.
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was named the winner of the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. It is an excellent example of policy-relevant social science research using multiple methodologies. They utilize a large N-database to test the effectiveness of violent and nonviolent resistance (the latter succeed far more often) and they examine 4 case studies: Burma, Iran, Palestine, and the Philippines. The book is quite readable even for non-specialists.
Lou Lieb
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. It's gratifying that a professional social scientist has set her sights on this topic, to take it beyond mere opinion, speculation and/or faith. As a proponent of nonviolence, I'm gratified that she provides a lot of ammunition (pardon the pun) for arguing for the effectiveness of nonviolent methods. I look forward to hearing much more about this topic in the future.
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Erica Chenoweth, Ph.D. is Professor & Associate Dean for Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. ...more

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Contemporary young adult literature has often led the way in depicting the real-life issues facing teens from all backgrounds. To delve into ho...
41 likes · 3 comments
“The most striking finding is that between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.” 0 likes
“In our data set of 218 violent insurgencies since 1900, democratic governments succeeded only about 5 percent of violent insurgencies.” 0 likes
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