Monday, September 6, 2010

Erica Chenoweth and Adria Lawrence, eds. Rethinking Violence: States and Non-State Actors in Conflict (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010).

States, nationalist movements, and ethnic groups in conflict face a choice between violent and nonviolent strategies. Although major wars between sovereign states have become rare, contemporary world politics has been rife with internal conflict, ethnic cleansing, and violence against civilians. This book asks how, why, and when states and non-state actors use violence against one another, and examines the effectiveness of various forms of political violence.

The essays make two innovative conceptual moves. The first is to think of violence not as dichotomous, as either present or absent, but to consider the wide range of nonviolent and violent options available and ask why actors come to embrace particular strategies. The second is to explore the dynamic nature of violent conflicts, developing explanations that can account for the eruption of violence at particular moments in time. The arguments focus on how changes in the balance of power between and among states and non-state actors generate uncertainty and threat, thereby creating an environment conducive to violence. This innovative way of understanding violence de-emphasizes the role of ethnic cleavages and nationalism in modern conflict.

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Scholars on Rethinking Violence:

“Why do ethnic and nationalist movements sometimes turn to violence? And why do states sometimes indiscriminately attack or forcibly expel certain national or ethnic groups? The essays in Rethinking Violence offer fresh and empirically grounded answers to these important questions. This volume will interest political scientists, sociologists, historians, anthropologists, psychologists, students, and citizens interested in warfare, ethnic cleansing, insurgency, terrorism, and conflict resolution. Not least, it also offers important lessons for scholars and advocates of nonviolent resistance.”
Jeff Goodwin, Professor of Sociology, New York University, author of No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991

“This volume gathers an impressive cast of young scholars who critically examine the use of violence by, and against, states using a rich array of methodological approaches and empirical cases. Taken as a whole, this collection highlights the promise of a bold research agenda that argues for understanding political violence as a dynamic process whose nature and timing are shaped by balance of power considerations rather than ancient hatreds or modern ideologies.”
Jason Lyall, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University

“This pathbreaking collection forcefully destroys old paradigms and provides important new optics through which to study violence in war.”
Robert I. Rotberg, President of the World Peace Foundation and Former Director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Harvard Kennedy School

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