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1. Collective emotions and the European crisis

By Mikko Salmela and Christian von Scheve

Nationalist, conservative, and anti-immigration parties as well as political movements have risen or become stronger all over Europe in the aftermath of EU’s financial crisis and its alleged solution, the politics of austerity. This development has been similar in countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain where radical cuts to public services such as social security and health care have been implemented as a precondition for the bail out loans arranged by the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, and in countries such as Finland, France, and the Netherlands that have contributed to the bailout while struggling with the crisis themselves. Together, the downturn that was initiated by the crisis and its management with austerity politics have created an enormous potential of discontent, despair, and anger among Europeans. These collective emotions have fueled protests against governments held responsible for unpopular decisions.

Protests in Greece after recent austerity cuts

Protests in Greece after austerity cuts in 2008

However, the financial crisis alone cannot fully explain these developments, since they have also gained momentum in countries like Britain, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden that do not belong to the Eurozone and have not directly participated in the bailout programs. Another unresolved question is why protests channel (once again) through the political right, rather than the left that has benefited from dissatisfaction for the last decades? And how is it that political debate across Europe makes increasing use of stereotypes and populist arguments, fueling nationalist resentments?

A protester with Occupy Wall Street

A protester with Occupy Wall Street

One way to look at these issues is through the complex affective processes intertwining with personal and collective identities as well as with fundamental social change. A particularly obvious building block consists of fear and insecurity regarding environmental, economic, cultural, or social changes. At the collective level, both are constructed and shaped in discourse with political parties and various interest groups strategically stirring the emotions of millions of citizens. At the individual level, insecurities manifest themselves as fear of not being able to live up to salient social identities and their inherent values, many of which originate from more secure and affluent times, and as shame about this anticipated or actual inability, especially in competitive market societies where responsibility for success and failure is attributed primarily to the individual. Under these conditions, many tend to emotionally distance themselves from the social identities that inflict shame and other negative feelings, instead seeking meaning and self-esteem from those aspects of identity perceived to be stable and immune to transformation, such as nationality, ethnicity, religion, language, and traditional gender roles – many of which are emphasized by populist and nationalist parties.

The urgent need to better understand the various kinds of collective emotions and their psychological and social repercussions is not only evident by looking at the European crisis and the re-emergence of nationalist movements throughout Europe. Across the globe, collective emotions have been at the center of major social movements and political transformations, Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring just being two further vivid examples. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the collective emotional processes underlying these developments is yet sparse. This is in part so because the social and behavioral sciences have only recently begun to systematically address collective emotions in both individual and social terms. The relevance of collective emotions in recent political developments both in Europe and around the globe suggests that it is time to expand the “emotional turn” of sciences to these affective phenomena as well.

Christian von Scheve is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Freie Universität Berlin, where he heads the Research Area Sociology of Emotion at the Institute of Sociology. Mikko Salmela is an Academy Research Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and a member of Finnish Center of Excellence in the Philosophy of Social Sciences. Together they are the authors of Collective Emotions published by Oxford University Press.

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Image credits: (1) Protests in Greece after austerity cuts in 2008. Photo by Joanna. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) A protester with Occupy Wall Street. Photo by David Shankbone. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

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2. The difficulties of shaping a stable world

By Julian Richards

As the world wrings its hands at the slaughter in Syria and ponders what, if anything, it can do, the precedent of intervention in Libya constantly raises its head. Why was it right and proper for us to intervene in Libya to prevent humanitarian catastrophe, but we are choosing not to do so now in Syria? The most readily available response is that “Syria is much more complicated than Libya”, but this hardly seems to help our understanding.

For a country such as the UK, these are not only tricky questions of foreign policy; they also serve to throw into the spotlight that most tricky question of all: what sort of player should Britain be on the international stage in the twenty-first century? Are we at the vanguard of the free world, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our American cousins in spreading democracy, liberal values and universal human rights around the world (a process that the UK government calls “Shaping a Stable World”), or are we – realistically – just a medium-sized European power with fairly limited military capabilities? As a Conservative back-bencher described it, in rather discourteous terms, is Britain fast becoming just a “Belgium with nukes”?

Prime Minister David Cameron. Source: number10.gov.uk.

When David Cameron came to power in 2010, one of the first things he did was to set up a National Security Council. This was the first time in British history that such as institution – at least under this name – has been at the centre of foreign policy-making. The origins of the idea date back to the political aftermath of the Iraq War and Tony Blair’s much-derided “sofa politics” style of government, where big decisions (such as committing Britain’s military to a major conflict) were seen to be made as much by unelected special advisers as by cabinet members and Parliament, and the decision-making presented in Dodgy Dossiers. This, claimed Cameron, was no way to deal with major decisions affecting national security, and he pledged to change it as soon as he was in power.

Cameron made good on his promise. He linked the publication of a new National Security Strategy at the end of 2010, with the announcement of the findings of a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). With the bitter recriminations from the Armed Forces ringing in his ears in the face of the substantial defence cuts announced in the SDSR, the new National Security Council was almost immediately thrown into overdrive as the Arab Spring swept like a tsunami across North Africa and the Middle East. It was time to put the new policy-making process into practice. Within weeks, British fighter jets found themselves operating alongside French and other NATO partners in the skies over Libya. No-one in government would have predicted such a turn of events, and it suggested that Britain does see itself as an essentially interventionist power, at least in some cases.


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3. Reflections on Libya and atrocity prevention

By Jared Genser

With the recent end of the NATO mission in Libya, it is an opportune moment to reflect on what took place and what it may mean for global efforts to prevent mass atrocities. Protests demanding an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year reign began on February 14th and spread across the country. The Libyan government immediately dispatched the army to crush the unrest. In a speech a week later, Gaddafi said he would rather die a martyr than to step down, and called on his supporters to attack and “cleanse Libya house by house” until protestors surrender. Some six months later, Gaddafi’s response to the contagion from the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt triggered a series of measures being imposed by the UN Security Council, including what became a NATO-sponsored “no-fly” zone. These measures ultimately resulted in Gaddafi’s ousting from power.

The overarching justification for the international intervention was the “responsibility to protect” (RtoP), a still-evolving doctrine which says all states have an obligation to prevent mass atrocities, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. In the wake of the Libya action, however, a fierce debate has raged over whether its use in this case will help or hurt this approach from being used to help future victims of mass atrocities.

Since its adoption, the doctrine has most notably applied in the case of Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007-2008 and as justification for lesser action in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire. Its application in Libya, however, was only the second time it has been explicitly invoked by the Security Council regarding the situation in a specific country.

In response to Gaddafi’s unyielding assaults on civilians in Libya, the Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution which imposed an arms embargo on Libya, targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against Gaddafi, his family members, and senior regime officials, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation of those involved in what was referred to as possible crimes against humanity. In the subsequent six weeks, while the international community debated how to proceed, Gaddafi moved relentlessly moved to quell the uprising, reportedly killing thousands of unarmed civilians.

With the urgency created by Gaddafi’s threats, the presence of his troops just outside Benghazi and a critical public statement by the Arab League urging the immediate imposition of a no-fly zone on Libya, the Security Council adopted a new resolution. Among other actions, it authorized UN member states to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, created a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace, and urged enforcement of an arms embargo and asset freeze on Libyan government as well as on key officials and their families.

It was these efforts, after substantial success and failure, which ultimately resulted in the overthrow of Gaddafi many months later. It is in that context there have been a range of perspectives regarding the Libyan intervention which will ultimately shape its legacy.

First, there is a concern that in the name of civilian protection, RtoP was used to justify a regime-change agenda, which was never the purpose of the doctrine. Second, there has been a global focus on the “sharp end” of RtoP being deployed in Libya. This broader agenda of atrocity prevention can easily be lost when an exception of military intervention, at one extreme of a possible response, swallows the entire doctrine, which is much more comprehensive. And third, there is a conc

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4. In your face in Cairo

By Brian K. Barber

I had learned from Kholoud that Aly would be in Cairo this week. So, as soon as I arrived on Monday night I called while walking through Tahrir Square. He picked up but the reception wasn’t good. He said he was also in the Square, that he was headed to drop off his bags, and would call later. I didn’t hear back from him.

Several calls and SMSs went unanswered. I figured that he was simply busy and that we would eventually meet this week for the next in our series of interviews that we’ve held since I first met him in early March this year.

Aly, tall and burly with a handsome face, has shared passionately in these interviews his commitment to the revolution. He, along with Kholoud and so many others in Alexandria were direct participants in the events of January 25th and beyond. (The coverage of Alexandria’s role in the revolution has been pitifully inadequate). When I first met him, Aly had just been injured in his hand and shoulder in a battle with security forces as they attempted to destroy incriminating documents.

Over the months, he, like all other activists, expressed increasing disappointment with the lack of substantive change. Aly’s narrative was unique among those I’ve talked intensively with, however, in his growing conviction that real change would require an escalation in violence on the part of the protesters. In July, he labored heavily with his own growing awareness that the regime’s corruption extended far beyond its recently deposed leader. But, rather, the violence, exploitation, and abuses of power are endemic throughout all sectors of society. He articulated that one grave implication of that for him might be that he would end up having to fight those he knows and is close to, perhaps even his family members.

Just a few weeks ago he wrote in an email, “The situation is getting more complicated and I am not optimistic at all with the coming elections. . . I am wondering . . . how could we break this system, what else is needed? I am believing that we need more violence against these structures and those leading it.”

Then, two days ago here in Cairo, in classic revolutionary form he posted on Facebook: “It is by all means the time of revolution, emancipation(s), and …love. SO For God Sake Revolt or die in Shame. It is the correction of the Egyptian Revolution Path; from War/revolution to politics and Again in the correct road from politics of the coward elites to the WAR/REVOLUTION of brave young generation who fights in the first lines, behind the enemy lines and in front and against the heavy machines of war and suppression. They shoot by their heavy equipment and we shoot by faith, believe and anger. Tomorrow we will not die, tomorrow we will be emancipation from who we had been, a new life is going to born from the heart and mud of the battle field of our revolution.

I had an immediate sense that Aly would be acting out this admonition himself, and even wrote to a colleague that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he would soon be a casualty of this newly reenergized revolution.

Last night at about 10pm I thought to try one more time to reach him. A voice picked up and identified himself as Aly’s friend. I could hear Aly in the background overruling his friend’s decision to turn me away and he took the phone. He was excited to talk, as was I to hear his voice. It wasn’t a surprise, but no less difficult, to hear from him that he lay in the hospital with bullet wounds to his head and body. He said that he “would love so much” a visit and, getting directions from Ayman, I hastened to

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5. Frantz Fanon: Third world revolutionary

By Martin Evans

Frantz Fanon died of leukaemia on 6 December 1961 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA where he had sought treatment for his cancer.  At Fanon’s request, his body was returned to Algeria and buried with full military honours by the Algerian National Army of Liberation, shortly after the publication of his most influential work, The Wretched of the Earth. As a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), which had been engaged in a war against French colonial rule in Algeria since November 1954, Fanon had made his mark as a journalist for the FLN newspaper El-Moudjahid.  Writing in an angry and confrontational style, Fanon justified FLN violence as mirror violence: a liberational act against the inherent violence of colonial rule.  This in turn became the core of his argument in The Wretched of the Earth.  Expanding outwards from Algeria to the rest of Africa and Asia, Fanon talked of violence in mystical terms – a necessary stage in the forward march of history that would purge Africans and Asians of any inferiority complex in regard to European colonial powers.

Born in 1925 in Fort-de-France on the French-ruled Caribbean island of Martinique, Frantz Fanon opposed the right-wing anti-Semitic Vichy Regime which was established in the wake of the Third Republic’s defeat by Nazi Germany in 1940.  Horrified by the widespread support for Vichy amongst the island’s colonial authorities, Fanon took flight in 1943 and made his way to French Algeria, which had passed into Free French hands after the USA and British landings in November 1942.  There he joined the Free French forces, fighting in Italy and then Germany where he was wounded in the back during the Alsace campaign.  Decorated for bravery, Fanon stayed on in France to study psychiatry and medicine at Lyon University.

Living in France confronted Fanon with the racial contradictions of French republican ideology.  It made him realise that for all the talk of liberty, equality, fraternity espoused by the Fourth Republic, a French Caribbean man like himself would never be seen as a true citizen.  The Republic might claim to be universal but in reality his presence was unnerving for a French society where whiteness was the norm and blackness was equated with evil.  It was a painful experience that led him to write his first book, Black Skins, White Masks, in 1952.  Published by Seuil, this was a pioneering study of racism as a psychological system where, Fanon argued, black people were forced to adopt white masks to survive in a white society.

In October 1953 Fanon began working as psychiatrist in a hospital in Blida just south of Algiers.  At this point French Algeria was fraught with racial tension.  Nine million Algerians co-existed uneasily with one million European settlers.  France had invaded Algeria in 1830 and annexed the country not as a colony but an integral part of France. On 8 May 1945, just as Nazi Germany was defeated, mass nationalist demonstrations across Algeria had called for the establishment of an independent Algerian state.  In the town of Sétif in the east of the country, these demonstrations produced violent clashes that led to the death of twenty-one Europeans and ignited an Algerian uprising. However, the French response was brutal and throughout May eastern Algerian was subjected to systematic repression. Yet, although French order was restored, fear and mistrust was everywhere. More than ever the settlers  were determined to thwart any concessions to the Algerian majority and the result was a blocked society. Frustrated at their lack of political rights, a small number of Algerians formed the FLN in October 1954 which, through a series of coordinated attacks across Algeria on 1 November, sought to overthrow colonialism through violence.

As Algeria slid into war, Fanon saw the psychological impact of French rule at first hand.  Struck by the number of Algerian patients s

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6. Egypt’s Revolution a Year Later

Nearly a year has passed since the huge crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square rallied to overthrow former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Yet, the Egyptian public remains loathe to articulate a coherent vision for Egypt, and “that is the challenge going forward,” says Steven A. Cook, CFR’s top Egypt expert. He says that the next crucial step will be choosing a hundred-person group to write a new constitution, which could to lead to a crisis between the interim military-led government and the newly elected Islamist parliament. Meanwhile, the United States, which has been a close ally of Egypt for decades, finds itself having to deal with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and as a result, Cook says, “there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time.”

Interviewee: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org

With the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution [January 25] only a couple of weeks away, do Egyptians think they are better off now than they were when Mubarak was in charge? What about U.S. officials, are they happier or more worried?

For the most part, Egyptians are happy to see the end of the Mubarak era, which was not an era of prosperity. It was not an era in which they could participate. It was an era of corruption and authoritarian politics. There remain supporters of the old regime, although they are a relatively small minority. The big question is what does the so-called silent majority–that the Egyptian Armed Forces consistently looks to–want? It’s unclear without major nationwide polling, but you do get a sense that what these people want is change. They came out in large numbers to vote in the now-concluded parliamentary elections. They want change. They want prosperity. They do not want the authoritarianism of the previous regime, but beyond that, it’s entirely unclear what Egyptians want. And I think that that is the challenge going forward.

There is supposed to be a hundred-person constitutional assembly created to write a new Egyptian constitution, which is to be followed by a presidential election. Is that going to be easy?

The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon. And I think that that’s been and remains a problem.

Is Washington content to watch this uncertainty unfold?

The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon.

U.S. policymakers find themselves in an unknown environment. Egyptian politics have been quite scrambled. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood–the Freedom and Justice Party–is slated to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the seats in the new People’s Assembly, followed by the Salafist al-Nour Party, with some 25 percent. Neither of these groups has historically held worldviews that conform to American interests in the region. So there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time. And that’s due not only to Islamist politics. People associate Egypt’s strategic relationship with the United States with Hosni Mubarak, even though it began before him, and people don’t believe that it served Egypt very well. As a result, I think there are going to be changes, and I think that that is certainly cause for concern. American policy makers are aware of the changes in Egypt, and they’re struggling to find a poli

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7. Calling Hamas the al Qaeda of Palestine isn’t just wrong, it’s stupid

By Daniel Byman

In a rousing speech before Congress on May 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected peace talks with the newly unified Palestinian government because it now includes — on paper at least — officials from the terrorist (or, in its own eyes, “resistance”) group Hamas. In a striking moment, Netanyahu defiantly declared, “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al Qaeda,” a statement greeted with resounding applause from the assembled members of Congress.

But hold on a minute. Yes, Hamas, like al Qaeda, is an Islamist group that uses terrorism as a strategic tool to achieve political aims. Yes, Hamas, like al Qaeda, rejects Israel and has opposed the peace talks that moderate Palestinians have tried to move forward. And sure, the Hamas charter uses language that parallels the worst anti-Semitism of al Qaeda, enjoining believers to fight Jews wherever they may be found and accusing Jews of numerous conspiracies against Muslims, ranging from the drug trade to creating “sabotage” groups like, apparently, violent versions of Rotary and Lions clubs.

But the differences between Hamas and al Qaeda often outweigh the similarities. And ignoring these differences underestimates Hamas’s power and influence — and risks missing opportunities to push Hamas into accepting a peace deal.

While Congress was quick to applaud Bibi’s fiery analogy, U.S. counterterrorism officials know that one of the biggest differences is that Hamas has a regional focus, while al Qaeda’s is global. Hamas bears no love for the United States, but it has not deliberately targeted Americans. Al Qaeda, of course, sees the United States as its primary enemy, and it doesn’t stop there. European countries, supposed enemies of Islam such as Russia and India, and Arab regimes of all stripes are on their hit list. Other components of the “Salafi-jihadist” movement (of which al Qaeda is a part) focus operations on killing Shiite Muslims, whom they view as apostates. Hamas, in contrast, does not call for the overthrow of Arab regimes and works with Shiite Iran and the Alawite-dominated secular regime in Damascus, pragmatically preferring weapons, money, and assistance in training to ideological consistency.

Hamas, like its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, also devotes much of its attention to education, health care, and social services. Like it or not, by caring for the poor and teaching the next generation of Muslims about its view of the world, Hamas is fundamentally reshaping Palestinian society. Thus, many Palestinians who do not share Hamas’s worldview nonetheless respect it; in part because the Palestinian moderates so beloved of the West have often failed to deliver on basic government functions. The old Arab nationalist visions of the 1950s and 1960s that animated the moderate Palestinian leader Mahmood Abbas and his mentor Yasir Arafat have less appeal to Palestinians today.

One of the greatest differences today, as the Arab spring raises the hope that democracy will take seed across the Middle East, is that Hamas accepts elections (and, in fact, took power in Gaza in part because of them) while al Qaeda vehemently rejects them. For Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin’s deputy and presumed heir-apparent, elections put man’s (and, even worse, woman’s) wishes above God’s. A democratic government could allow the sale of alcohol, cooperate militarily with the United States, permit women to dress immodestly, or a condone a host of other practices that extremists see as for

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8. Arab Spring, Israeli reality

By Elvin Lim

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9. The suspicious revolution: an interview with Talal Asad

By Nathan Schneider Not long after his return from Cairo, where he was doing fieldwork, I spoke with Talal Asad at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, where he is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology. Distinguished indeed: with books like Genealogies of Religion and Formations of the Secular, as well as numerous articles, Asad’s work has been formative for current scholarly conversation about religion and secularity, stressing both

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10. Keeping nonviolent resistance real

2011 will certainly be remembered as a year of uprisings and protest. Consider the “Arab Spring” and the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Complacency has no place in the present, but nor does violence, hopefully. From the 494 B.C. plebeians’ march out of Rome to gain improved status, to Gandhi’s nonviolent campaigns in India, to the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 80s and uprisings and protests of 2011, nonviolent struggles have played pivotal roles in world events for centuries. Around each of these events a vocabulary, a lexicon, of power and struggle emerged. And Gene Sharp, the “godfather of nonviolent resistance” has been “one of the great pioneers of nonviolent theory,” according to Joseph Nye. “His writings have affected nonviolent resistance tactics around the world, most recently in Egypt. He distills…wisdom…readily accessible to activists, journalists, and researchers alike.” Below is some of that wisdom, an essay by Sharp from the recently published Sharp’s Dictionary of Power and Struggle. Let’s hope the lines of communication stay open and all parties keep it real.     -Purdy, publicity

You can also listen to an interview with Gene Sharp on today’s edition of WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

Our world is filled with conflicts. They often cause us grave problems. However, conflicts themselves are not the real problem. Conflicts are often positive and a given conflict can have meritorious purposes. Problems arise principally from the means by which conflicts are often waged: through violence.

Many political groups and virtually all governments operate on the unexamined assumption that the means of last resort and greatest effectiveness is violence, especially in a military capacity. Violence is certainly necessary to support certain objectives, among them oppression, dictatorship, and mass killings. If we oppose those objectives we need to think about how otherwise to act so that our actions truly weaken the possibility of oppression, dictatorship, or mass killings, and do not unintentionally contribute to their growth.

The choice to use violence is determined by our understanding of the nature of political power. We need to understand better both the power possessed by our opponents and the power available to those who reject their opponents’ objectives. Opponents in “no-compromise conflicts” are understood to be able to wield massive power. We know that the power they use for hostile purposes must be counteracted by equal or greater power. If it is not, the opponents’ objectives will likely be achieved.

Our opponents’ power is often understood to be strong, solid, and long-lasting. If we choose to act against our opponents with violence, it is because we believe that our capacity to wage violent conflict is needed—that is, our opponents’ power for hostile purposes cannot be successfully defeated without violence. But in choosing to fight with violence we have agreed to fight with our opponents’ best weapons. We think that extreme risks are justified because our opponents’ power is likely to triumph unless it is confronted by greater violence. We do not examine whether our understanding of power is accurate.


In our quest for better understanding of what is possible in extreme conflicts, we must start by asking a fundamental question: What is “political power”?

Drawing on the insights of respected political theorists and analysts, we unders

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