Between Mao and Gandhi: Strategies of Violence and Nonviolence in Revolutionary Movements.

On 11 Dec. 2014 Ches Thurber gave an impressive talk at Harvard on the subject of his dissertation,“Between Mao and Gandhi: Strategies of Violence and Nonviolence in Revolutionary Movements.” A PhD candidate at Tufts University, he writes:

From Eastern Europe to South Africa to the Arab Spring, nonviolent action has proven capable of overthrowing autocratic regimes and bringing about revolutionary political change. In fact, recent research suggests that nonviolent movements are more than twice as effective in achieving their goals than violent ones. So why do some political movements nevertheless believe it necessary to take up arms? Can they be convinced otherwise? My dissertation examines why political movements that seek to overthrow the state come to embrace a strategy of either armed insurgency or civil resistance. I argue that, surprisingly, the repressive actions of the state do not have a decisive impact. Instead, it is the nature of a movement’s own base of supporters—its size, composition, and networked structure—that shapes strategic behavior. I draw upon original interviews with movement leaders, ex-combatants, military commanders, and foreign observers to present detailed accounts of cases of both armed and unarmed campaigns within Nepal’s unique history of revolutionary struggle. I provide further empirical tests through the analysis of cross-national datasets. The findings have important implications both for movements who seek to maintain adherence to nonviolence as well as for global actors with an interest in promoting civil resistance as an alternative to armed conflict. []


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