The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict


The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University has released an academic research paper by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth arguing that “The historical record indicates that nonviolent campaigns have been more successful than armed campaigns in achieving ultimate goals in political struggles, even when used against similar opponents and in the face of repression.” 

In Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict the authors also cite evidence from Max Abrahms that terrorist strategies succeed achieving policy objectives just 7% of the time.

The authors further observe that, “Although nonviolent resistors eschew the threat or use of violence, the ‘peaceful’ designation often given to nonviolent movements belies the often highly disruptive nature of organized nonviolent resistance.” But, “Given a credible alternative, the public is more likely to support a nonviolent campaign.”

Other findings include the result that “the provision of educational materials (e.g., books,films, DVDs, and videogames) that highlight lessons learned from other historical nonviolent movements has been cited by nonviolent activists as critical to their mobilization.”

Non-violent campaigns are more likely to compel loyalty shifts than violent campaigns, conclude the authors. The study compares the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006.