A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict

By in Jurisprudence on March 26, 2013

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  • Trade paperback
This nationally-acclaimed book shows how popular movements used nonviolent action to overthrow dictators, obstruct military invaders and secure human rights in country after country, over the past century. Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall depict how nonviolent sanctions–such as protests, strikes and boycotts–separate brutal regimes from their means of control. They tell inside stories–how Danes outmaneuvered the Nazis, Solidarity defeated Polish communism, and mass action removed a Chilean dictator–and also how nonviolent power is changing the world today, from Burma to Serbia.

“In a contest of violence against violence,” the philosopher Hannah Arendt observed, “the superiority of the government has always been absolute.” When confronted with nonviolent resistance on the part of the downtrodden, however, governments have often crumbled–witness the fall of South Africa’s apartheid regime and the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia.

The worldwide spread of democracy in the 20th century, documentary writers Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall maintain, “would not have come to pass without the power of ordinary people who defied oppressive rulers not by force of arms, but by nonviolent action.” By way of example, they cite the collapse of the Argentine military regime following peaceful protests by the mothers of men and women who had been murdered by the secret police; the eventual undermining of the Polish Communist regime by the nonviolent Solidarity labor movement; the refusal of the Danish people to comply with the laws of their Nazi occupiers during World War II; and the exemplary work done in India (and, earlier, South Africa) by Mohandas Gandhi, who took pains to emphasize that nonviolence does not imply passivity.

Ackerman and DuVall’s book, the companion volume to a PBS television series, will be of much interest to political activists of all stripes, as well as to students of contemporary history. –Gregory McNamee

3 thoughts on “A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict

  1. 1
    44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Why did revenge dominate the 9-11 discussion in the US?, February 4, 2002
    By 
    Glen G (Seattle, WA United States) –

    This review is from: A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict (Paperback)

    Why did revenge and vengeance dominate the 9-11 discussion by public officials and the media? Why do our public discourse and media images seem virtually bereft of the common sense that informs many other areas of life? This outstanding book could help fill the void. It consists of a dozen very well-written and well-documented case studies of the power of nonviolence in dealing with injustice on a national or international scale. And I mean the power of nonviolence like King and Gandhi lived it, not the stereotype of nonviolence as passivity or cowardice.

    Good parents know revenge doesn’t work with their children, good teachers know it doesn’t work in the classroom, good citizens know it doesn’t work in their community, and a growing proportion of the criminal justice world is embracing the vision of “restorative justice” as a much more functional grounding for most of their work. Even though the majority of people in the US know that revenge doesn’t work, there is a lack of awareness of the power of nonviolence in the larger public arena, even though two thirds of the world’s population has experienced nonviolent social change that was successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams in South Africa, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Gandhi in India, the US civil rights movement, to name just a few case studies covered in this remarkable book.

    As someone who has taught and worked in community centers in the highest crime areas of NYC and Oakland and directed conflict and peace studies programs for 80 public schools, a university, and several community and national organizations, I can affirm that people are hungry for the hope that comes from stories of nonviolence in action.

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  2. 2
    7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Keep Struggling, March 31, 2005
    By 
    R. BROWN (Boulder, CO) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict (Paperback)

    Excellent! One of the most powerful books I have ever read. Explodes the left-wing myth that revolutions only occur through violence a la Che Guevara, cites many examples where non-violence protest has ultimately changed the executive power of states from the Phillipines to El Salvador, and won people civil rights. Includes Gandhi and also the Civil Rights movement in the USA in the 60s as case studies.

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  3. 3
    6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Deserves Six Stars, September 28, 2006
    By 
    H. Campbell (houston, texas) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict (Paperback)

    This is a very important book and deserves consideration for inclusion in ALL history education classes in America, if not the world. Of course, many powers-that-be would be adverse to this subversive idea, since it would in effect, instruct people on how to take control of their own lives out of the hands of malfeasant, greedy politicians and instead empower democracy through democracy, rather than the current American vogue of democracy at the point of a gun. The book describes several of the well-known non-violent movements as well as lesser known ones, such as the German women who embarrassed the Nazis into returning their arrested Jewish husbands from certain death. The associated documentary is also outstanding. A must-have for anyone who hopes the world can save itself from itself (and I’m not sure I’m in that category.)

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