Belfer Center Home > Experts > Maria Stephan > Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

EmailEmail   PrintPrint Bookmark and Share

"Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict"

AP Photo

"Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict"

Journal Article, International Security, volume 33, issue 1, pages 7-44

Summer 2008

Authors: Maria Stephan, Former Research Fellow, Intrastate Conflict Program/International Security Program, 2003–2005, Erica Chenoweth, Former Associate, International Security Program, 2006–2008; Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2008–2010

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Quarterly Journal: International Security



The historical record indicates that nonviolent campaigns have been more successful than armed campaigns in achieving ultimate goals in political struggles, even when used against similar opponents and in the face of repression. Nonviolent campaigns are more likely to win legitimacy, attract widespread domestic and international support, neutralize the opponent’s security forces, and compel loyalty shifts among erstwhile opponent supporters than are armed campaigns, which enjoin the active support of a relatively small number of people, offer the opponent a justification for violent counterattacks, and are less likely to prompt loyalty shifts and defections. An original, aggregate data set of all known major nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006 is used to test these claims. These dynamics are further explored in case studies of resistance campaigns in Southeast Asia that have featured periods of both violent and nonviolent resistance.


For more information about this publication please contact the IS Editorial Assistant at 617-495-1914.

For Academic Citation:

Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth. "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict." International Security 33, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 7-44.

Bookmark and Share

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.