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The question https://politics.stackexchange.com/q/981/130 has been closed by Robert Cartaino. Quoting his comment:

This is a very broad, open question that isn't likely to be very quantifiable. As such, folks can only offer anecdotes and opinions. Perhaps if you had a much more specific question about what you actually need to know, the folks here might be more able to help you. These type of talking-points and discussion questions are better asked in a discussion forum or chat room. It will surely be an interesting discussion, it's just not well-suited to this site

I would like to argue that this is quantifiable, although not necessarily on-topic at Politics SE (probably moreso at History SE). In fact, an entire book has been published addressing this question:

Erica Chenatoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works, Colombia University Press, 2011.

I'm sure many of the results are open for interpretation and debatable, but the precise point that it's not quantifiable, I disagree with. One can count historical non-violent movements, make an estimate of the number of participants, and an observation as to whether or not the effects have been achieved or not.

  • an entire book has been published addressing this question. Um. Actually, that's rather an indication that it is too broad. – TRiG Feb 16 '13 at 19:45
  • The problem I see with this question is causality. Can the success of a given "non-violent revolution" be proven to be due to the non-violent movement? Or, the violent movement that was backing it up (in the words of my favorite alt-hist fictional character, "you can make a deal with me... OR you will have to deal with them")? Or due to entirely unrelated set of circumstances, most of which had more effect on the success than non-violence. E.g., Indian independence can be argued to be both cases #2 and #3, even if most people when polled would name Ghandi's nonviolent resistance as the cause – user4012 Feb 16 '13 at 22:49
  • ... (For #3, as a thought experiment, think what Ghandi's success rate would have been had India been Nazi Germany's colony... or Spanish in the heyday of Hapsburgs). – user4012 Feb 16 '13 at 22:52
  • ... Also, I wouldn't trust that book too much as objective non-political material, given that one of their main examples of "non-violent" resistance is Palestinian Authority. Someone forgot to tell the authors about the term "intifada"... or let them read the textbooks taught in PA schools. I'm sure objective study can be attempted to answer your question... but NOT by people who set out beforehand with the goal to prove that non-violent resistance is more effective. – user4012 Feb 16 '13 at 22:56
  • ... and the second of their 4 blurb examples is Iran. A textbook example of non-violent resistance (assuming they meant recent events) NOT working, though not because it was non-violent but due to lack of popular support. – user4012 Feb 16 '13 at 22:59
  • @DVK, the Iranian revolution 1977–1979 ousted an unpopular monarchy. The book considers both violent and nonviolent Palestinian resistance. Also, there are examples of successful non-violent resistance against the Nazis. – gerrit Feb 17 '13 at 11:23
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    @TRiG It's an entire book because the book considers many details. My point is that it /is/ quantifiable. – gerrit Feb 17 '13 at 11:29
  • @DVK, also, many movements contain both violent and non-violent aspects, and it's primarily the violent aspects that make the news, even if the vast majority of participants is non-violent. For example, in 1988, there were 23053 reported unarmed protests, versus 38 shooting incidents (0.16% violent). This percentage rose to 1.36% in 1992. In the beginning it was succesful, later it turned less succesful. So it can actually be given as a quite clear example for the books thesis. Gaza is no longer occupied. – gerrit Feb 17 '13 at 11:43
  • @gerrit - Uh. Iran had 3 examples. NONE of them fit. "White" revolution was a topdown reform, not a revolution. 1979 was a violent revolt. 2010s was non-violent but failed. – user4012 Feb 17 '13 at 13:41
  • @gerrit - the point is, if the "non-violent" revolution consists of a guy with a gun, and a guy without a gun, with the latter saying "I want X, or else my friend will start shooting", it is NOT a valid example of "non-violent" revolution. It's an example of "violent revolutions are so effective that a mere threat of one produces result, without the need to actually resort to violence". Non-violence presumes that everyone involved refuses violence on principle, not just a spokesperson/political wing of a militant violent organization, e.g. Northern Ireland, or PA. – user4012 Feb 17 '13 at 13:42
  • @DVK, If ten-thousand people demonstrate non-violently but a single lunatic has a gun, that doesn't make the movement a violent one. By your definition, non-violent movements do not exist. The succesful Iranian revolution of 1979 was non-violent. – gerrit Feb 17 '13 at 14:43
  • @gerrit - ONE lunatic??? You have a very strange impression of what happened in Iran. Yes, when it's a ratio of thousands peaceful and couple dozen violent, violent can be disregarded, I agree. Every set of 10,000 will have a couple of violent psychopaths. I'm referring to when there are thousands willing to do violence as well. – user4012 Feb 17 '13 at 16:13
  • @DVK, I did not claim there was a single lunatic. In Iran, there were unsuccesful attempts at violent revolution, followed by a succesful non-violent revolution with massive popular support. A thousand violent among millions of participant is still a tiny and perhaps insignificant fraction. Of course one cannot separate violent vs. non-violent completely, but the Iranian revolution was non-violent in the sense that it was not a guerilla taking over the country city by city. The Vietnamese resistance is an example of a succesful, violent campaign. – gerrit Feb 17 '13 at 17:51

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