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How Nonviolence Protects the State

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  649 ratings  ·  54 reviews

Since the civil rights era, the doctrine of nonviolence has enjoyed near-universal acceptance by the US Left. Today protest is often shaped by cooperation with state authorities-even organizers of rallies against police brutality apply for police permits, and anti-imperialists usually stop short of supporting self-defense and armed resistance. How Nonviolence Protects the

Paperback, 198 pages
Published July 1st 2018 by Detritus Books (first published 2007)
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Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pacifists willing to reconsider their assumptions, or those who wish to argue with such people
Shelves: owned-and-read
I don't think I have ever read anything that persuaded me to change my mind about something so radically. While I wasn't an absolute pacifist going into this book, I was pretty committed to nonviolence, and had been for many, many years. Because of this well-argued book, I am now convinced that the doctrine of nonviolence is misinformed, racist, patriarchal, authoritarian and ineffective. Privileged activists like myself who are not prepared to participate in strategic violent resistance directl ...more
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to AJ by: South End Press
This book helped confirm my nagging feeling that nonviolent activism doesn't really help further any type of real revolutionary agenda. The author does a great job explaining why this is so and what alternatives exist to counter ineffective pacifism.
Evelyn Woagh
I think this book is important, and has given me many words and helped me find explanations for thoughts and ideologies in my mind which were previously abstract. Unfortunately, there are several things wrong with it. Firstly, I find it odd an anarchist is focused on criticising patriarchy rather than hierarchy. The root of patriarchy is hierarchy. An imperialist with a different set of genitals is still an imperialist. So it is with capitalists and all others with similar conditions of power, w ...more
I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this book. On the one hand I feel like I learned a lot from it, and gained some worldview-evolving information; but on the other, the author said a few really ignorant things. I skipped the chapter on patriarchy, (correctly) assuming it would be full of references to sexual violence and atrocity propaganda. While glancing through this chapter after finishing the book, I came across the cringe-inducing phrase "women and transgender people" (as if these a ...more
Kat Dixon
Peter Gelderloos claims to advocate a variety of tactics with which to achieve social revolution and transformation, each “chosen to fit the particular situation [and:] not drawn from a preconceived moral code” (3). Often he accomplishes this through the defense or justification of militancy at the expense of nonviolent resolution. Though his tract is indeed contrived from an interesting standpoint, he relies too heavily on the novelty of his position to persuade readers rather than supporting h ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and compelling critique of pacifism as an ideological imperative. Gelderloos shows that those who demand a strict adherence to a principle of non-violence in social movements are speaking from a privileged, authoritarian, self-serving, and delusional position. He argues that non-violence is ineffective, racist, patriarchal, and tactically limiting. Not only that, but it is not truly "non-violent" as it perpetuates a system of coercive force to maintain the capitalist status quo.

Ganglion Bard-barbarian
Only one charming example, out of many, of Gelderloos' astounding scholastic prowess; he lists a personal e-mail exchange with a JMU professor as his only academic citation in regards to his account of Gandhi and the history of Indian national liberation struggle.

A blatant and unreadable plagiarism of Churchill's highly recommended Pacism as Pathology. Boycott Peter Gelderloos.
Aug 21, 2010 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pacifists
A high rating off as hypocritical, seeing as I've just given Thoreau's Civil Disobedience four stars, but I'd still give the book four, maybe five stars.

Thoreau suggested and embodied his anti-government revolt with boycott, i.e., he did not pay taxes, he never got married, nor did he consume alcohol and/or tobacco. While he, in fact, employed a variety of nonviolent tactics, he did not separate protest into violence and nonviolence. It is certainly true that (admittedly a generalization) nonvio
Gabriel Avocado
i.....did not enjoy this book. in terms of style the author is incredibly repetitive and it annoys me. okay we get it. liberals are bad and ignorant. you are such a good activist because you dont shy away from violence. we get it. something about the authors tone angered me and i couldnt explain it until i realized he was an anarchist. suddenly it made a lot of sense.

as a marxist, i found the authors arguments childish. like at one point i had to ask myself if the author was just pro violence fo
Ernesto Aguilar
Revolutionary movements have toiled for generations around a variety of issues. And since the 1999 World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle, Washington, where activists using a range of tactics succeeded in thwarting WTO meetings, debates over approach have been central to the dialogue.

In his book, Gelderloos makes a fearless though at points flawed argument against not simply pacifism, but the philosophy of nonviolence in the context of social change. Many are likely to find such a po
Oct 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone; Political Activists; Thinkers
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviews
Okay, I couldn't pass up a catchy title -- so what? This provocative, trenchantly written book holds that peaceful protests, absent any aggressive insinuations, amount to wasted effort. I never before thought about nonviolence except as a given, and now I see it in a much more sober light. Such is the persuasiveness of this book.

The argumentation deployed by the author approaches the idea of nonviolence from every possible angle, then deconstructs it point by point: Pacifism, we find, channels
Court Hansen
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up on a whim because it looked like it would challenge many of my ideas about activism and resistance, and boy howdy, did it ever. Gelderloos uses several well-researched, thoughtful historical examples to show how nonviolence as an ideology has become so popular because it maintains the status quo. Throughout the book the author points out that pacifism comes from a place of privilege, and has historically been argued for by people who, subconsciously or otherwise, benefit fr ...more
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Au vu de la situation, la grande majorité des mouvements sociaux et écologistes échouent lamentablement. La plupart de ces mouvements se targuent de respecter scrupuleusement les principes de la non-violence, qu'ils considèrent comme la seule méthode de lutte acceptable. Et pourtant, ainsi que Peter Gelderloos l'expose brillamment dans ce livre, cette adhérence dogmatique au concept de la non-violence est injustifiée et injustifiable. Il s'agit d'une des principales raisons pour lesquelles ils s ...more
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i would highly recommend reading this!

like a lot of [white or passing poc] activists i know, i was raised to view "nonviolence" as the only morally acceptable way forward. i had a sort of naive faith that somehow, enough symbolic acts of non-violent civil disobedience could convince oppressive institutions to change for the better.

back then, i would have been very reluctant to hear what Gelderloos had to say. but he raises the important question: which tactics are effective for causing true, las
Oct 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I have all of the mixed feelings about this book.

I think it's an interesting premise, and some parts of this book are fascinating and well-argued. (Why Nonviolence is Racist, in particular.) The most convincing part is that all movements require a variety of tactics in order to succeed, and more radical violent groups often enable the success of more mainstream ideologies by forcing the state to deal with them. That's totally fair, and seems inarguably correct.

However, I think Gelderloos of
Rui Coelho
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been aware of this book (and its impact on anarchism) for a long time, but I was afraid this was going to be just a mindless celebration of violence. I was far from the truth. After some great experiences with Gerlderloos ("The Anarchist Solution to Global Warming" and "Organisation vs Insurrection", which basically solves one of the main contemporary anarchist debates), I tackled this book.
How Nonviolence Protects the State is not a book against nonviolent activism. What it aggressively
Convincing argument that pacifism is a pathology of the left (As an incisive goodreads participant pointed out and perhaps you are likely aware of also: that there is another book with that title "pacifism as pathology" by ward churchill). That book is extensively sourced and is listed as recommended read in Gelderloos' book. Brave ideas irregardless of who wants to claim the patent. I don't necessarily agree with everything here but it puts forward an impressive argument for the right to self-d ...more
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well laid out, a little biased but provides a practical and historical account as to the failings of nonviolence which casts light on what Frantz Fanon might have meant in calling nonviolence an aspect of bourgeois colonialism.
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An engaging and relatively short look at the problems of using strictly non-violence in activism. While the text felt more dense than I think is useful for books about revolutionary praxis, I did gain excellent insight into the ways in which we protest oppressive structures.
Lawrence Wiggins
great. every activist needs to read this.
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential reality check
Daniel Morgan
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-history
Honestly, this book is very convincing. Throughout the book, Gelderloos references historical examples of violent and nonviolent activism, to demonstrate how the latter is ineffective. He also analyzes a diversity of tactics to promote revolutionary activity and social change. One of his key conceptual frames is that he does not see the division as nonviolence vs. violence, but rather as nonviolence vs. a diversity of tactics (some of which may be violent). This allows him to highlight the role ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ce livre est passionnant et instructif. Petit bonus pour le traducteur qui souligne à un moment les raccourcis empruntés par l'auteur (on aime l'honnêteté intellectuelle de la démarche). Cela me donne envie de lire d'autres livres de Peter Gelderloos, ça serait chouette qu'il soit davantage traduit en français.
Zach Tingley
one of the first books to have me question the fundamentals of my pacifism. i suggest this to any liberal or "pacifist" interested in revolutionary politics
Ana Spoladore
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recomendo
Gostei pra caralho
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Un buen ejemplo de por qué un análisis sobre movimientos sociales no debería ser escrito con el estómago.

Gelderloos comienza confundiendo términos, para empezar. No es lo mismo el pacifismo que la manifestación no-violenta, ni tampoco es lo mismo que la desobediencia civil. Aclarado esto, pasa a poner en duda los triunfos de los movimientos no-violentos, y si bien hay referencias históricas rescatables, en otros puntos es muy endeble (como cuando cita un e-mail de un profesor indio para decir qu
Tyler Dumont
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I understood the word "privilege" until I read this book, but I knew that the stereotypical white millennial slinging the word around self righteously at a cocktail party, probably didn't know the first thing about what it meant. This book opened my mind in understanding, and empathizing, a life of oppression. This book for me was less about anarchism, and more about understanding our identity as social people with agendas. As a Christian, as well, this work was incredibly pastoral ...more
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: activists, people who think they understand pacifism
This was a great (as well as short and accessible) read that addresses some points that are rarely discussed in activist circles. I read this starting with the last chapter first (Chapter 7, "The Alternative") and I honestly recommend that other people do the same because the way the book is written can be somewhat off-putting: he spends most of the time DISPROVING the idea that nonviolence is useful as a strategy or goal and does so by regularly bringing up examples of pacifists ineffective or ...more
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the book started out a 10, talking about the black panther party and malcolm X's message, showing off the hypocrisy of pacifists using MLK as the leader of a nonviolent win (which is false, and IMO malcolm X was a much greater influencer) same thing with using Gandhi as an example when he wasn't all that doing ethnic cleansing in his country when he preached nonviolent tactics to kick out the british colonizers. i've always been a critic of pacifism so this book only enforced my beliefs where it ...more
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: revolution
This book is one of the most well-written non-fiction books I've read in a long time. The ideas are presented thoughtfully and persuasively in a way that brings you naturally to the conclusion. Nonviolence is something I took for granted for a long time until seeing END:CIV last year and being confronted with hydro-fracking in NY. This book expanded my ideas about protest, results, and revolution.

I would recommend every person who considers themselves an activist to read it. Even if you don't en
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“We must realistically accept that revolution is a social war, not because we like war, but because we recognize that the status quo is a low-intensity war and challenging the state results in an intensification of that warfare. We must also accept that revolution necessitates interpersonal conflict because certain classes of people are employed to defend the centralizing institutions we must destroy. People who continue to dehumanize themselves as agents of law and order must be defeated by whatever means necessary until they can no longer prevent people’s autonomous realization of their needs.” 0 likes
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