Difficult Conversations, with Kern Beare

Waging Conflict Without Violence: A Conversation with Political Scientist Maria Stephan

November 11, 2022 Kern Beare Season 2 Episode 6
Difficult Conversations, with Kern Beare
Waging Conflict Without Violence: A Conversation with Political Scientist Maria Stephan
Show Notes

Can nonviolent civil resistance be successful even against the most militarily sophisticated and brutal regimes? My podcast guest this month, political scientist Maria Stephan, says unequivocally “yes."

Co-Lead and Chief Organizer at The Horizons Project and the former Director of the Program on Nonviolent Action at the United States Institute of Peace, Maria is the co-author, with Erica Chenoweth, of the award-winning book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. The result of two years of research —  collecting and analyzing data on over 330 major, violent and nonviolent campaigns — the book makes the case for a surprising conclusion: nonviolent campaigns were actually twice as effective as violent ones in achieving their political goals. 

It's a stunning finding. And at a time when a war in Ukraine threatens the entire planet with a nuclear catastrophe, and when political turmoil in the U.S. has people wondering if we're headed toward a civil war, it's a finding that, more than ever, is essential to our collective future.

So please, check out this interview with Maria. You’ll learn about what non-violent action is, why it’s so powerful, the forces working against non-violent action today, and how those forces can be overcome. You'll also learn about Maria's current work at The Horizons Project, which focuses on the threat of authoritarianism in the United States. She discusses the U.S.’s long history of authoritarian tendencies, exactly how those tendencies are manifesting today, and how the tools and strategies of nonviolent action can be used to effectively counter them.


Two other resources on the power of nonviolent action: 

  • A Force More Powerful is a two-part, multiple-award-winning documentary series “on one of the 20th century’s most important and least-known stories: how nonviolent power overcame oppression and authoritarian rule. It includes six cases of movements, and each case is approximately 30 minutes long.” This is the documentary that motivated Maria to study nonviolent movements.
  • The Strength of Nonviolence in Ukraine. Yes, there’s a war in Ukraine. But as Maria mentions in the podcast, there’s also a very strong, rarely covered nonviolent movement as well. This website is a rich resource on the effectiveness of nonviolent action, even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of war.

Kern Beare is the founder of the Difficult Conversations Project and the author of Difficult Conversations: The Art and Science of Working Together. He also facilitates a workshop based on his book, which is free for non-profit organizations and community groups.