Civil Resistance by Erica Chenoweth [8/10]

Erica Chenoweth, political scientist and possibly the world’s preeminent expert on what I call nonviolent direct action, is famous within Extinction Rebellion for having first espoused the 3.5% notion: that an activist movement needs to fully and solidly mobilize that percentage of a population to achieve change. Chenoweth has written much, including books, on the subject. Now “Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know” is a consummate, wise, compendious everyperson treatment of this vital topic, suitable for both the experienced activist and anyone anxious to right wrongs and unsure whether to start a war or organize a protest. Chenoweth’s patient account, backed by as much research as has been done (she is at pains always to point out that research can be helpful but social change is ultra complicated and each case is unique), forms a history, a primer, a reflection, a from-the-headlines analysis (including, for example, how governments now fear civil resistance the most and actively fight it with fake news and deliberate provocation), and a toolkit. In my youth I read Gene Sharpe, the first systematic synthesizer of nonviolence’s history, and I’ve been an activist (an active activist, that is) twice in my life, so I am no neophyte, but I was spellbound by the usefulness and generosity of Civil Resistance. A must-read for anyone longing for a better world.

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