Civil Resistance Tactics in the 21st Century

By Michael A. Beer. Published by ICNC Press, 2021

By Barbara Wien (reviewer) | 2021-10-01 12:00:00

Nonviolent uprisings and struggles are scaling-up around the world, especially among youth. Mass movements are growing at an unprecedented rate. Powerful corporations and elites are being challenged on every continent. Why are so many people striking, boycotting, sitting-in, marching, testifying, broadcasting, and protesting in scores of countries? What are their strategies, demands, goals, and values? How are they carrying out their campaigns? What tools are they employing? How have governments responded?

Michael Beer’s new cutting-edge monograph is an attempt to answer some of these questions. He does a deep dive on multifaceted protest movements around the globe and offers us a window on their amazing creativity and dynamism. Beer draws on the latest developments around the world to highlight exciting campaigns to end racial injustice, environmental destruction, gender inequality, militarism, and poverty, among many other forms of oppression. Civil Resistance Tactics in the 21st Century updates Gene Sharp’s influential work, Politics of Nonviolent Action, published in 1973, and expands our repertoire as a result of societal and technological changes. He has developed a new classification system that advances our understanding of civil resistance around the world. He offers 23 examples of new tactics accompanied by stories to provide a context and understanding of an action.

Beer’s new work, published by the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, is a major contribution to exploring a period in history when more and more people are attempting to move away from armed struggle to a new level of resistance against tyranny in all its manifestations. He emphasizes the global nature of nonviolent action all over the world.

Beer introduces us to terms and fundamental concepts in civil resistance, and then explains the latest trends and underlying factors driving the growth of new methods worldwide. The monograph reframes and expands the universe of nonviolent methods for activists, scholars, and those who wish to support nonviolent movements. The booklet is intended to inspire and promote action, deepen nonviolence as a worthy area of study, and strengthen practice for teachers and trainers.

The monograph nicely complements the Global Nonviolent Action Database at Swarthmore College, the Global Protest Tracker at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the database at Nonviolence International, and Erica Chenoweth’s and Maria J. Stephan’s empirical research. These resources underscore that resistance movements and methods are growing and are twice as likely to succeed over violent tactics.

As Beer explains in the monograph, “Weapons of nonviolent conflict are numerous, diverse, and ever-evolving. Strategists and social scientists are constantly discovering new patterns, relationships, and insights.” We are fortunate Michael Beer has categorized such diverse new tools and tactics to fortify us for the days ahead while we face both intersecting crises and a time of hope, renewal, and possibility.

Reviewed by Barbara Wien. Barbara Wien teaches Peace, Global Security and Conflict Resolution at American University

Peace Magazine October-December 2021

Peace Magazine October-December 2021, page 26. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Barbara Wien (reviewer) here

Peace Magazine homepage