Photo Credit: Minds of the Movement
In 1973, the pioneering scholar Gene Sharp set the standard for classifying methods of nonviolent action, famously documenting 198 of them and dividing them into three broad categories: protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and nonviolent intervention.
Forty-five years later, a forthcoming ICNC publication, Revisiting the Methods of Nonviolent Action by Michael Beer of Nonviolence International, will take on the formidable task of updating, expanding, and reclassifying the universe of civil resistance methods. Among its many contributions, the book introduces an entire new category called Creative (Constructive) Intervention, defining it as “direct action that models or constructs alternative behaviors and institutions or takes over existing institutions.”
It is well known that movements—from American colonists nonviolently resisting British rule (1765-1775), to the Indian Independence Movement (1920s-1940s), to the Solidarity movement in Poland (1980-89)—engaged in extensive alternative institution-building. Yet, in his groundbreaking list of 198 nonviolent methods, Sharp catalogued only three vague examples: alternative social institutions, alternative economic institutions, and dual sovereignty/parallel government (numbers 179, 192 and 198 respectively). Furthermore, Sharp claims these three examples all fall under his category of “nonviolent intervention”, rather than identifying them as part of an independent category of nonviolent action. Proposing a new category of Creative (Constructive) Intervention that specifically captures the many forms of alternative institutions reflects the true significance that these methods have for civil resistance scholarship and practice.
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