Andrew Marantz of the New Yorker –
As democracy hangs in the balance, activists are drawing lessons from the study of civil resistance.
About a week before Election Day, Erica Chenoweth, the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, hosted an impromptu Zoom meeting for students, alumni, and colleagues—a free-form conversation in which people could ask questions, express anxieties, and try to gauge, from a comparative-politics perspective, whether the United States was totally screwed or just moderately screwed.
As rectangles on the Zoom grid flickered to life, Chenoweth played “Freedom,” by Beyoncé (“I break chains all by myself / Won’t let my freedom rot in Hell”). Chenoweth is an expert in civil resistance, a term that Chenoweth uses interchangeably with “nonviolent mass action,” or “strategic nonviolent conflict,” or “unarmed insurrection.”
Most political scientists study how political institutions work; Chenoweth and other scholars of civil resistance study what happens when mainstream political institutions break down and the people rise up.