31 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2018 Last revised: 21 Oct 2018
Date Written: August 29, 2018
Non-violent action entails exerting power to bring about change through means which avoid the use of physical force. Examples include protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, and non-cooperation, among others. Although it is possible for a single individual to engage in non-violence, larger-scale efforts, which involve numerous people working together to achieve some shared goal, are associated with broader societal change. Historically, these goals have included: undermining authoritarian governments, contesting injustices, preserving human rights, freedoms, and civil liberties, preventing coups d’états, defending against external threats, and expelling foreign invaders, among others. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the key thinkers, practitioners, and writings on non-violent action. Our purpose is twofold. First, we aim to introduce readers to the key figures in the long tradition of non-violent action. Second, we seek to emphasize non-violent action as an important means for responding to crises. This approach is bottom-up in that it requires people figuring out ways to work together collectively to generate change to the status quo without a single, overarching entity directing the effort.
Keywords: Non-violent action, Gene Sharp, protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, non-cooperation
JEL Classification: D70, H12, H80, F50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation