HKS Affiliated Authors

Academic Dean for Faculty Engagement
Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment


Erica Chenoweth examines the recent decline of civil-resistance campaigns and argues recent setbacks, like the pandemic, have served as a much-needed reset for movements around the world.

Over the past fifty years, nonviolent civil resistance has overtaken armed struggle as the most common form of mobilization used by revolutionary movements. Yet even as civil resistance reached a new peak of popularity during the 2010s, its effectiveness had begun to decline—even before the covid-19 pandemic brought mass demonstrations to a temporary halt in early 2020. This essay argues that the decreased success of nonviolent civil resistance was due not only to savvier state responses, but also to changes in the structure and capabilities of civil-resistance movements themselves. Perhaps counterintuitively, the coronavirus pandemic may have helped to address some of these underlying problems by driving movements to turn their focus back to relationship-building, grassroots organizing, strategy, and planning.


Erica Chenoweth. 7/2020. “The Future of Nonviolent Resistance.” Journal of Democracy , 31, 3, Pp. 69-84. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School.