Non-violent means of resistance are twice as effective as violent means in producing political change, according to Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan in their book “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Non-Violent Conflict.”
Chenoweth graduated from the University of Dayton in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and German. She currently works in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and directs the Program on Terrorism and Insurgency Research.
She was also a fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and the University of California-Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, according to her website ericachenoweth.com
The book provides an in-depth analysis of more than a century’s worth of political struggle and examines the results of those conflicts to conclude the superior efficiency of non-violent resistance.
Chenoweth and Stephan won the 2013 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for their work. The award is “presented annually to the winner of a competition designed to stimulate the recognition, dissemination and critical analysis of outstanding proposals for improving world order” according to Grawemeyer.org
The award is one of five given each year since 1984. The remaining four are for contributions to music theory, education, psychology and religion, the last of which is jointly presented by the university and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological seminary. The awards accompany a prize of $100,000.
Chenoweth and Stephan collected data on and evaluated the outcomes of every known uprising between 1900 and 2006 of at least 1,000 people that related to a country’s secession, overthrow of a dictatorship or removal of a foreign occupation.
From their sample of 323 campaigns they were able to demonstrate that civil resistance has been twice as likely to succeed as armed struggle in overthrowing regimes and resisting foreign occupation, according to a chapter excerpted from the book
hosted on harvard.edu.
The pair also found that governments that had changed through non-violent means of resistance had a much higher likelihood of staying or becoming a stable democracy than those that underwent violent campaigns.
They further discovered that the strategic advantage of civil resistance was true regardless of geography, regime dimension and level of repression used against the uprising. However, the benefit of non-violence did not hold steady across time: non-violent non-cooperation has actually become more effective with each decade, according to harvard.edu.
The book explains that the success of non-violence is in part due to the methods used to carry it out: weaponless civilians tended towards protests, strikes, boycotts and demonstrations—much like those of the civil rights movement of the 1960s—while violent campaigns utilized assassinations and bombings.
The results have extended ramifications in the study of violence and conflict and challenge the current “assumption that the most effective means of waging political struggle entails violence” according to harvard.edu.