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Peace Studies at Manchester University | Plowshares | Indianapolis Peace Institute | Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace
  Volume 34   November 2007 

 


What’s In a Name?
by Tim McElwee

Leo Tolstoy once said, “If public opinion would frown against violence, it would lose its power.” Gandhi, and numerous other peace theorists and practitioners, have made it clear that cooperative power, based on the consent of the masses is the more important and effective form of power. Yet few will be inclined to frown against violence until they are convinced of the power of nonviolent change as a viable alternative to achieve their goals. The highly regarded peace scholar, Gene Sharp captured the essence of this challenge when he wrote many years ago: “Why is it that when most of the people of the literate world at least agree that war must be abolished and know that another world war may end everything, does almost everybody continue to support preparations for war? The answer, I suggest, is that they will continue to do so until they have the confidence in an alternative way of dealing with those crises for which they have traditionally relied upon war.”

Pervasive ignorance about the power of nonviolence is due to many reasons, not least of which is the near total disregard of these events in the major media. For example, in reporting on the 1989 nonviolent revolutions that swept through much of Eastern Europe, when reporters mentioned nonviolence at all, they often described the movements and methods as curious, seemingly one-time anomalies. Rarely did reporters endeavor to comprehend the years of preparation that led to the revolutions. Seldom did they place the incidents within the rich and varied context of nonviolent history and acknowledge the effectiveness and moral grounding of nonviolent social change. In short, the major media tend to marginalize, ignore, or distort the power of nonviolent social change. Some academic institutions and non-governmental research institutes have attempted to fill this troublesome void, but they have done so with only limited effectiveness.

For several years the Manchester University Peace Studies Institute has emphasized the theory and practice of nonviolent social change. We have encouraged our students to examine what is sometimes referred to as principled nonviolence, as well as pragmatic implications of nonviolence as applied theory. With this issue of the Bulletin, the Manchester University Peace Studies Institute formally changes the name of our annual publication to denote our renewed commitment to more intentionally promote the principles, power, and effectiveness of nonviolent social change. Henceforth, each edition of the Bulletin will publicize accounts of nonviolent social change, particularly those that have not received sufficient attention. We welcome scholars, activists, and peacemakers to join us in this worthwhile and timely endeavor.

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Tim McElwee (’78) is the Plowshares Associate Professor of Peace Studies and Political Science and the Director of the Peace Studies Institute at Manchester University.



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