Nonviolent Resistance, Social Justice, and Positive Peace


What is the role of nonviolent resistance in achieving positive peace? In this chapter Iwill argue that nonviolent resistance is crucial for positive peace at anything beyond the individual scale. The steps in my argument are as follows: to be meaningful, achieving positive peace requires achieving social justice. Yet social justice is almost never voluntarily given by oppressors. Thus, achieving social justice requires the exercise of coercive power. However,when coercive power involves the use of violence, even when deployed for social justice, it tends to destroy that socially just order. Thus, to achieve positive peace requires an alternative avenue for the exercise of coercive power. Nonviolent resistance – the application of political force outside the normal bounds of politics and without the use of violence – provides the toolkit through which to exercise this coercive power.I present evidence to this effect from the growing literature on nonviolent resistance,emphasizing three key ways in which nonviolent resistance advances positive peace: first,through its practice, which prefigures and embodies a political order of greater positive peace;second, through its ability to overthrow unjust political systems; and third, through its positive long-term effects on political order. I conclude by reflecting on the challenges and limitations that remain in studying nonviolent resistance and applying it to achieve positive peace.

in The Springer Handbook of Positive Peace, edited by Katherina Standish, Heather Devere, Rachel Rafferty, and Adan Suazo
Jonathan Pinckney
Jonathan Pinckney
Assistant Professor

My research interests include civil resistance, democratization, and peacebuilding.