Chenoweth, Erica “The Role of Violence in Nonviolent Resistance,” Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 26:55-77 (Volume publication date June 2023).

What’s the issue?

There is a growing scholarly interest in nonviolent resistance as an alternative to armed resistance in conflicts. But there is also disagreement over whether nonviolence can achieve change.

What does the research say?

In a new article, HKS Professor Erica Chenoweth, whose research focuses on civil resistance movements, reviews and summarizes the points of agreement and disagreement among experts.

Chenoweth suggests that differences may be due to experts using different approaches and methods, and that the field would benefit from greater analytical precision. They say that the evidence suggests that flanks of organized armed violence appear to reduce the chances for otherwise nonviolent movements to succeed.

Chenoweth finds the study of nonviolent resistance remains important for two reasons:

  • Many movements in the world deliberately adopt a non-violent resistance strategy.
  • The concept of nonviolent resistance is politically important.


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