The Myth of the Rational Insurgent

2 Feb

Lambert Strether over at Naked Capitalism reposted a presentation I delivered at Stanford last August, called “Confronting the Myth of the Rational Insurgent.” You can access his post and my presentation here.

A debate is unfolding in the comments section of the post. I address many of the questions raised here in a paper I am writing for the ISA Annual Meetings in San Diego in April. Most of the critiques the NC readers are raising about the data, however, are addressed and dealt with in my book with Maria Stephan. For anyone interested, the data and appendix used for the book are available at my research page.

As Maria and I emphasize, our book is not meant to be the last word. Instead, we hope it will catalyze new and improved research on the topic of civil resistance–a field I’ve been encouraging security studies scholars to take seriously. One of the ways I’ve been hoping to attract greater attention to the topic of civil resistance has been to develop this “myths” talk, which I have tested out on a few different audiences. It’s supposed to be provocative, and it generally has elicited fairly strong reactions. The response over at NC is no exception.

My hope is not to provoke discussion for its own sake. Instead, my goals are twofold: 1) to encourage more systematic empirical research on the topic; and 2) to persuade people, on the basis of existing empirical research, that nonviolent resistance can often be a viable alternative for challenging entrenched power.

5 Responses to “The Myth of the Rational Insurgent”

  1. lambertstrether February 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Thanks! What I find fascinating and horrifying is the cognitive dissonance created by the suggestion that non-violence might actually work. Some people are apparently deeply committed to a worldview where violence is the norm.

    • Mark Mattaini February 3, 2012 at 7:06 am #

      Yes, for sure. This is obviously a major obstacle to building support for a serious research program into the potential for nonviolent struggle. Both the potential for and the dynamics of nonviolent alternatives clearly could be seriously explored scientifically (Gene Sharp agrees); failing to devote the needed resources to do so seems to me indefensible (and especially given Erica and Maria Stephan’s data).

  2. Mark Mattaini February 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Entered reply at Naked Capitalism. The work is important. Mark


  1. Erica Chenoweth: Confronting the myth of the rational insurgent « naked capitalism - February 2, 2012

    […] Professor Chenoweth comments: A debate is unfolding in the comments section [here at NC]. I address many of the questions raised […]

  2. Nonviolence or Diversity of Tactics: Confronting the Myth of the Rational Insurgent | more stardust - October 14, 2013

    […] Chenowith makes her motivation for the study clear here: […]

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