The Success of Nonviolence

I just came across the work on nonviolence by the University of Denver’s Erica Chenoweth. In this TED talk, she says that she began as a skeptic about the ability of nonviolence to make meaningful change. Someone challenged her to look into the topic further, and she says she was shocked by the results. I am too, in a good way.

“From 1900 to 2006, nonviolent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed outright as violent insurgencies. And there’s more. This trend has been increasing over time, so that in the last 50 years nonviolent campaigns are becoming increasingly successful and common.”

Below is the key figure from Chenoweth’s presentation, illustrating the percent of violent and nonviolent movements that succeeded in overthrowing a government or liberating a territory. It’s clear that nonviolent movements are not a panacea to reducing violence in the world. They aren’t always successful, and sometimes violent movements may be necessary.

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