In This Review

Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know
Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know
By Erica Chenoweth
Oxford University Press, 2021, 256 pp

This is a work of advocacy as well as analysis. Civil resistance is a form of collective action in which unarmed people coordinate a variety of measures, such as work stoppages, sit-ins, hunger strikes, and boycotts. Chenoweth believes that when it comes to inspiring social change, such means are both more ethical and more effective than violence. When nonviolent activists topple a regime, for example, what follows is usually more stable and inclusive than the aftermath of a violent insurrection. She uses an impressive range of examples to address some of the more obvious objections to civil resistance as a method: that nonviolence is equivalent to passivity, that such movements can be easily suppressed with violence, that they often contain violent elements, and that they work only against democratic governments. Chenoweth sees civil resistance as a form of pressure building up from below against illegitimate and unjust practices and regimes. She identifies a close link between the tactics of civil resistance and progressive political change, implying that those who use these methods are invariably in the right. But as she acknowledges, sectarian and regressive movements can also employ civil resistance, and they frequently do.