Abstract

Since the late 1970s the revolutionary process has undergone a startling transformation. In contrast to the “great” revolutions of the past, many contemporary revolutions are characterized by the predominant use of nonviolent - or at least unarmed – methods of resistance against the state. Perhaps even more puzzling than this “evolution of revolution” is the fact that unarmed revolutions have been remarkably effective when it comes to ousting authoritarian leaders. In response to these empirical findings, a new field of study has emerged that seeks to understand why civil resistance works. The underlying assumption in much of this work is that these revolutionary movements succeed precisely because they are nonviolent. But what if this assumption is incorrect? What if the success of nonviolent revolutionary movements does not depend on the fact that they are nonviolent at all, but rather on the structural contexts in which the movements play out? Using qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), this talk presents initial findings from a study of 21 major nonviolent revolutionary movements.