From Bull Connors' dogs and fire hoses attacking U.S. civil rights demonstrators to the massacre at Amritsar in colonial India and the shooting of nonviolent demonstrators in Soviet Tblisi in 1990, the use of coercive force often backfires.
Rather than undermining resistance, repression often fuels popular movements. When authorities respond to nonviolent people power with intimidation, coercion, and violence, they often undercut their own legitimacy, precipitating significant reforms or regime overthrow.
Activists in a wide range of movements have engaged in nonviolent tactics of “repression management” that can turn the potentially negative consequences of repression to their advantage.
The Paradox of Repression book project brings together scholars and activists to address multiple dimensions of this phenomenon, which Gene Sharp calls “political jiu jitsu,” including the potential for nonviolent strategy to raise the likelihood that repression will cost those who use it.
This book is currently under development. Stay tuned to this website for further updates.
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Watch Lester Kurtz talk about the Paradox of Repression
at the United States Institute of Peace Global Campus
Panel Discussion with Authors
George Mason University
March 7, 2013