University of Denver
This book seeks to apply findings from the literature on nonviolent action to give insight on four “non-traditional” areas: verbal abuse, online defamation, and conflicts over euthanasia and child vaccination. The author first describes the major findings of several key works on nonviolence, with particular emphasis on its strategic effectiveness relative to political violence. Since the contrast with political violence is not relevant to the author’s four areas, applying nonviolent action involves developing a conceptual scheme of the core characteristics of nonviolent action which are more broadly applicable. The author argues for seven “transportable features:” non-standard practices, limited harm, high participation, voluntary participation, fairness, prefiguration, and skillful use. He then uses these principles as well as illustrative examples from various historical nonviolent political struggles to suggest practical solutions for each of the four areas. While the book’s premise is interesting, the book has difficulty achieving its goals for several reasons. First, the author’s characterization of the empirical research on nonviolent action is often misleading or inaccurate. Second, the four cases are chosen solely on the basis of the author’s personal experience. While this unsystematic selection process provides an impressive level of detail it results in a disjointed discussion. Third, the application of the principles of nonviolent action often amounts to somewhat simplistic advice to be assertive but not aggressive. Finally, there is no systematic testing of the author’s suggestions and little evidence provided to bolster his arguments. While the book may provide helpful personal advice, and introduces some important academic works on nonviolent action in an accessible way, other recent works contribute more to moving the research frontier on nonviolent action forward.