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Violence and Nonviolence expert Stephan speaks March 3 on “The Critical Struggle for Multi-Racial Democracy”

Stephan-March 3-"The Critical Struggle for Multi-Racial Democracy"
Stephan speaks March 3 on "The Critical Struggle for Multi-Racial Democracy"

by Spencer Graves

March 3 (Sunday) 9:30 – 10:30 AM Central Maria Stephan addresses All Souls Forum on “The Critical Struggle for Multi-Racial Democracy in the US and Globally”. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth have done path-breaking research in violence and nonviolence. Research by others has focused on either violence or nonviolence. The work of Chenoweth and Stephan has allowed them to compare the relative effectiveness of violent and nonviolent approaches to conflict, absent from other research.

For their 2011 Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, they compiled a database of all the major violent and nonviolent governmental change efforts of the twentieth century: 217 violent revolutions and 106 nonviolent campaigns. 25% of the violent campaigns were successful while 53% of the nonviolent campaigns were. Conflict leaders were more than twice as likely to be successful with nonviolence as with violence, at least in the data they compiled.

More importantly, when they looked for changes in the level of democratization after vs. before, they found that the level of democratization increased on average among nonviolent campaigns but not among violent revolutions. This was true even for nonviolent campaigns that lost, though the increase was greater among those that won. Meanwhile, their major violent campaigns on average replaced one brutal repressive system with another. If you care about democracy, then the means are more important than winning. Similarly, the presence of a radical flank, a violent group pursuing complementary goals, reduced the chances of success of otherwise nonviolent campaigns.

In 2021 they published The Role of External Support in Nonviolent Campaigns: Poisoned chalice or holy grail? This book summarized research on individual events within a smaller number of major nonviolent campaigns of the twenty-first century. In brief, they found that the impact of external support depended on its nature. The support or opposition of foreign governments was important, and small dollar contributions helped with printing and similar costs, especially when coordinated among external actors. However, external support is always secondary to local actions. And large dollar contributions for paid staff were less useful, because campaigns wasted energy competing for external grants. Authoritarian regimes often accuse domestic dissenters of being foreign agents, but the success of nonviolent campaigns seems to rest primarily on the actions of local people. External support can help but seems neither necessary nor sufficient. Training in nonviolence can be valuable. Training years before any campaign can help build relationships and support strategic planning and learning from peers. After a campaign, external support can help bolster civil society, democratic institutions, and independent media.

Dr. Stephan co-leads the Horizons Project, an organizing platform dedicated to strengthening multi-racial democracy in the US and globally. She previously worked in the US State Department and the US Institute of Peace, where she helped manage programs like the research documented in her work with Chenoweth. On March 3, she focuses primarily on the work of the Horizons Project in strengthening multi-racial democracy in the US and globally.

Copyright:

* Fair use is claimed for the use of the cover of Chenoweth and Stephan (2023), because the most likely impact from this use would be to increase the sales of the book, and PeaceWorks Kansas City and All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church are both nonprofits gaining no commercial advantage from this use.

* The image of Maria Stephan is from Wikimedia Commons “Stephan on left with cover of Chenoweth and Stephan 2023 on the right”, which is copyrighted 2019 under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

* The text is copyrighted 2024 by Spencer Graves, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 international license.

Dr. Stephan co-leads the Horizons Project, an organizing platform dedicated to strengthening multi-racial democracy in the US and globally. She previously worked in the US State Department and the US Institute of Peace, where she helped manage programs like the research documented in her work with Chenoweth. On March 3, she focuses primarily on the work of the Horizons Project in strengthening multi-racial democracy in the US and globally.

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