Randle, Michael, ed, 2002. Challenge to Nonviolence. Bradford, UK: Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford. xviii + 304 pp. ISBN 1851431896.

A review published in Journal of Peace Research, volume 41, number 5, September 2004, p. 645.

 

If you are already familiar with nonviolence and want to explore the issues more deeply, what could be better than to join an advanced discussion group with similarly committed individuals? Lacking this opportunity, though, the next best option is to read Challenge to Nonviolence. From 1994 to 1999, the Nonviolent Action Research Project held meetings in Bradford to discuss written papers and verbal presentations. The participants, usually five to ten of them, included activists and scholars, including such well-known authors in the field as April Carter, Howard Clark, Bob Overy, Michael Randle and Andrew Rigby. Seventeen meetings are reported in the book.

The topics include staples of nonviolence debates such as the dynamics of nonviolent action, Gene Sharp's theory of power, Gandhi as a political organiser, and whether military intervention can be justified. Other topics include a range of case studies, not always overtly related to nonviolence, such as Earth First, Ploughshares actions, sanctions against Iraq, British intelligence services, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Chile. For each topic, a paper is provided, either a reprint of a published article or a summary of a verbal presentation, followed by the editor's summary of the ensuing discussion.

These discussions reveal nonviolence as a contentious and difficult topic, very far from formulaic. Most of the participants follow the pragmatic orientation to nonviolence and are acutely concerned about current issues, with an emphasis on Britain and Europe. To fully appreciate this volume, prior familiarity with writings and debates about nonviolence is needed.

Brian Martin


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