How Civil Resistance Works

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

in Nonviolent Revolutions

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778201
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199897216 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Culture and Politics

How Civil Resistance Works

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This chapter provides an overview of the factors that distinguished the successful cases from the failed ones. Comparing the effects of various nonviolent techniques, this chapter emphasizes that one had the greatest impact on regimes: the undermining of regimes’ sanctioning power. In all three of the successful cases (East Germany, Chile, and the Philippines), soldiers defected, leaving the dictators impotent to impose their rule by force; in all of the failed cases (China, Panama, Kenya), troops largely remained loyal. This book suggests that soldiers are most likely to defect when they receive few to no benefits from the regime, when they share an identity with civil resisters, and when activists remain nonviolent, thereby making repression difficult to justify. This chapter also addresses other factors that can undermine nonviolent revolts, including internal movement divisions, the inability to maintain nonviolent discipline, and international sanctions. This chapter discusses the implications of these findings and sets forth policy considerations for civil resisters.

Keywords: civil resistance; strategic nonviolence; defections; international sanctions; movement outcomes

Chapter.  5627 words. 

Subjects: Social Movements and Social Change

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