INTERVIEW BY TERRY MESSMAN – Erica Chenoweth and her co-author, Maria Stephan, reveal in their book, Why Civil Resistance Works, that during the period of 1900 to 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns are about twice as effective as violent ones in achieving their immediate goals of either regime change or territorial change. They also found that these trends hold even under conditions where most people expect nonviolent resistance to be ineffective.
Nonviolent campaigns were effective, for instance, against dictatorships; against highly repressive regimes that are using violent and brutal repression against the movements; and also in places where people would expect a nonviolent campaign to be impossible to even emerge in the first place — such as very closed societies with no civil society organization to speak of prior to the onset of the campaign.
Chenoweth conducted her research because of the skepticism that a lot of people have about the efficacy of nonviolence in these circumstances. In most of the violent insurgencies we look at, people will say the reason they are violent is because nonviolent resistance can’t work in these conditions. This is why it’s particularly striking that even in these types of conflicts, we’re seeing nonviolence resistance outperform so dramatically.