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Strategic Nonviolent Power

Athabasca University Press | Global Peace Studies

History indicates that there are powerful routes to liberation from oppression that do not involve violence. Mohandas Gandhi called for a science of nonviolent action, one based on satyagraha, or the “insistence on truth.” As Gandhi understood, nonviolent resistance is not passive, nor is it weak; rather, such action is an exercise of power. Despite the success of Gandhi’s “Quit India” movement, the resources dedicated to the application of rigorous science to nonviolent struggle have been vanishingly small. By contrast, almost unimaginable levels of financial and human resources have been devoted to the science and technologies of killing, war, and collective violence. Mark Mattaini reviews the history and theory of nonviolent struggles against oppression and discusses recent research that indicates the substantial need for and advantage of nonviolent alternatives. He then offers a detailed exploration of principles of behavioral systems science that appear to underlie effective strategic civil resistance and “people power.”

Strategic Nonviolent Power proposes that the route to what Gandhi described as the “undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries” of nonviolent resistance is the application of rigorous science. Although not a simple science, Mattaini’s application of ecological science grounded in the science of behaviour brings exceptional power to the struggle for justice and liberation. At a time when civil resistance is actively reshaping global political realities, the science of nonviolent struggle deserves the attention of the scientific, activist, strategic, military, spiritual, and diplomatic communities, as well as the informed public.


Mark A. Mattaini is associate professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago. Editor of the scientific journal Behavior and Social Issues, he is the author or editor of ten books, including PEACE POWER for Adolescents: Strategies for a Culture of Nonviolence (NASW Press) and Finding Solutions to Social Problems: Behavioral Strategies for Change (American Psychological Association). Mattaini is the principal developer of the behavior analytic PEACE POWER strategy, which has been presented and implemented in at least twelve American states, as well as two Canadian provinces, and was recently introduced in a UNESCO-funded project in Brazil.

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