How nonviolence is misrepresented



Publication Details

Martin, B. (2008). How nonviolence is misrepresented. Gandhi Marg, 30 (2), 235-257.

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Gandhi Marg


Peter Gelderloos in his book How Nonviolence Protects the State claims that nonviolence is ineffective, racist, statist, patriarchal, tactically and strategically inferior, and deluded.[1] His attack on nonviolence is fierce and unrelenting.

To assess Gelderloos' views, I first outline the case for nonviolence and the associated case against violence. This provides a foundation for examining Gelderloos' arguments. I give special attention to his questionable assumption that violence always triumphs over nonviolence. In my judgement, Gelderloos' arguments are based on pervasive double standards. In addition, he fails to spell out what levels and types of violence he considers acceptable, an omission that undermines his argument. Finally, I comment on connections between anarchism and violence/nonviolence.

I am a longstanding supporter of nonviolent action, so it is predictable that I am critical of Gelderloos's arguments. But I also believe critical analysis is valuable. Nonviolent activists can become more effective by subjecting their beliefs to logical scrutiny and empirical testing.

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