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Protest and DissentNOMOS LXII$
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Melissa Schwartzberg

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479810512

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479810512.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

Competing Theories of Nonviolent Politics

Competing Theories of Nonviolent Politics

(p.83) 4 Competing Theories of Nonviolent Politics
Protest and Dissent

Karuna Mantena

NYU Press

The contemporary literature on nonviolent politics relies upon a sharp distinction between strategic and principled nonviolence. Gandhi and King are associated with the latter, defined as a strict moral commitment to nonviolence that both scholars and activists view as unnecessary for the successful practice of nonviolent politics. I argue the distinction between strategic and principled nonviolence is misleading. It misunderstands the most distinctive feature of classical nonviolent politics, namely, how Gandhi and King tethered ethical practice—practices of self-discipline or suffering—to political strategy. This chapter reconstructs an alternative account of nonviolent action—nonviolence as disciplined action—and argues that it is also strategic in orientation but premised upon a different theory of politics and political action. Disciplined action is underpinned by a skeptical ontology of action which highlights the affective dynamics of action. I contrast this to the prevailing model of nonviolence as collective power, which focuses on techniques of mass mobilization and the generation of social power. I distinguish the conceptual logic of these competing theories of nonviolent politics and the differing forms of protest and dissent they recommend.

Keywords:   nonviolent politics, satyagraha, mass protest, Gene Sharp, strategic nonviolence, M. K. Gandhi

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