ACCOMMODATION: A mechanism of change in nonviolent action in which the opponents resolve, while they still have a choice, to agree to a compromise and grant certain demands of the nonviolent resisters. Accommodation occurs when the opponents have neither changed their views nor been nonviolently coerced, but have concluded that a compromise settlement is desirable. The accommodation may result from influences which, if continued, might have led to the conversion, nonviolent coercion, or disintegration of the opponents’ system or regime.
AUTHORITY: The quality of leadership which enables the judgments, decisions, recommendations, and orders of certain individuals and institutions to be accepted voluntarily as prudent or wise and therefore should be implemented by others through obedience or cooperation. Authority is a main source of political power, but is not identical with it.
BOYCOTT: Refraining from patronizing a service, buying a product, having contact with certain people, or having transactions with certain institutions or businesses.
CIVIC ABSTENTION: A synonym for acts of political noncooperation.
CIVIC ACTION: Nonviolent action by civil society conducted for political purposes.
CIVIC DEFIANCE: Assertive acts of nonviolent protest, resistance or intervention conducted for political purposes.
CIVIC RESISTANCE: A synonym for nonviolent resistance by civil society with a political objective.
CIVIC STRIKE: A shut-down of economic and social space conducted for political reasons. Not only workers may go on strike, but importantly students, professionals, shopkeepers, white-color workers (including government employees), and members of upper classes can participate.
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: A deliberate peaceful violation of particular laws, decrees, regulations, ordinances, military or police orders, and the like.
These are usually laws which are regarded as inherently immoral, unjust, or tyrannical. Sometimes, however, laws of a largely regulatory or morally neutral character may be disobeyed as a symbol of opposition to wider policies of the government.
CONVERSION: A change of viewpoint by the opponents against whom nonviolent action has been waged, such that they come to believe it is right to accept the objectives of the nonviolent group. This is one of four mechanisms of change in nonviolent action.
DISINTEGRATION: The fourth mechanism of change in nonviolent action, in which the opponents are not simply coerced, but their system or government is disintegrated and falls apart as a result of massive noncooperation and defiance. The sources of power are restricted or severed by the noncooperation to such an extreme degree that the opponents’ system or government simply dissolves.
ECONOMIC SHUT-DOWN: A suspension of the economic activities of a city, area, or country on a sufficient scale to produce economic paralysis. The motives are usually political.
This may be achieved with a general strike by workers while management, business, commercial institutions, and small shopkeepers close their establishments and halt their economic activities.
FREEDOM (POLITICAL): A political condition which permits freedom of choice and action for individuals and also for individuals and groups to participate in the decisions and operation of the society and the political system.
GRAND STRATEGY: The broadest conception of how an objective is to be attained in a conflict by a chosen course of action. The grand strategy serves to coordinate and direct all appropriate and available resources (human, political, economic, moral, etc.) of the group to attain its objectives in a conflict.
Several more limited strategies may be applied within a grand strategy to achieve particular objectives in subordinate phases of the overall struggle.
GRIEVANCE GROUP: The general population group whose grievances are issues in the conflict, and are being championed by the nonviolent resisters.
HUMAN RESOURCES: A term that is used here to indicate the number of persons and groups who obey "the ruler" (meaning the ruling group in command of the state), cooperate with, or assist the ruling group in implementing their will. This includes the proportion of such persons and groups in the general population, and the extent, forms, and independence of their organizations.
A ruler’s power is affected by the availability of these human resources, which constitute one of the sources of political power.
MATERIAL RESOURCES: This is another source of political power. The term refers to property, natural resources, financial resources, the economic system, means of communication, and modes of transportation. The degree to which the ruler controls, or does not control, these helps to determine the extent or limits of the ruler’s power.
MECHANISMS OF CHANGE: The processes by which change is achieved in successful cases of nonviolent struggle. The four mechanisms are conversion, accommodation, nonviolent coercion, and disintegration.
METHODS: The specific means of action within the technique of nonviolent action. Nearly two hundred specific methods have thus far been identified. They are classed under three main classes of nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation (social, economic, and political), and nonviolent intervention.
NONCOOPERATION: A large class of methods of nonviolent action that involve deliberate restriction, discontinuance, or withholding of social, economic, or political cooperation (or a combination of these) with a disapproved person, activity, institution, or regime.
The methods of noncooperation are classified in the subcategories of social noncooperation, economic noncooperation (economic boycotts and labor strikes), and political noncooperation.
NONVIOLENCE (RELIGIOUS OR ETHICAL): Beliefs and behavior of several types in which violent acts are prohibited on religious or ethical grounds. In some belief systems, not only physical violence is barred but also hostile thoughts and words. Certain belief systems additionally enjoin positive attitudes and behavior toward opponents, or even a rejection of the concept of opponents.
Such believers often may participate in nonviolent struggles with people practicing nonviolent struggle for pragmatic reasons, or may choose not to do so.
NONVIOLENT ACTION: A general technique of conducting protest, resistance, and intervention without physical violence.
Such action may be conducted by (a) acts of omission — that is, the participants refuse to perform acts which they usually perform, are expected by custom to perform, or are required by law or regulation to perform; or (b) acts of commission — that is, the participants perform acts which they usually do not perform, are not expected by custom to perform, or are forbidden by law or regulation from performing; or (c) a combination of both.
The technique includes a multitude of specific methods which are grouped into three main classes: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and nonviolent intervention.
NONVIOLENT COERCION: A mechanism of change in nonviolent action in which demands are achieved against the will of the opponents because effective control of the situation has been taken away from them by widespread noncooperation and defiance. However, the opponents still remain in their official positions and the system has not yet disintegrated.
NONVIOLENT CONFLICT: A conflict in which at least one party uses nonviolent action as its means to wage the conflict.
NONVIOLENT INSURRECTION: A popular political uprising against an established regime regarded as oppressive by use of massive noncooperation and defiance.
NONVIOLENT INTERVENTION: A large class of methods of nonviolent action which in a conflict situation directly interfere by nonviolent means with the opponents’ activities and operation of their system. These methods are distinguished from both symbolic protests and noncooperation. The disruptive intervention is most often physical (as in a sit-in) but may be psychological, social, economic, or political.
NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION: A large class of methods of nonviolent action which are symbolic acts expressing opposition opinions or attempting persuasion (as vigils, marches or picketing). These acts extend beyond verbal expressions of opinion but stop short of noncooperation (as a strike) and nonviolent intervention (as a sit-in).
NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE: The waging of determined conflict by strong forms of nonviolent action, especially against determined and resourceful opponents who may respond with repression.
NONVIOLENT WEAPONS: The specific methods of nonviolent action.
PILLARS OF SUPPORT: The institutions and sections of the society which supply the existing regime with the needed sources of power to maintain and expand its power capacity.
Examples are the police, prisons, and military forces supplying sanctions, moral and religious leaders supplying authority (legitimacy), labor groups and business and investment groups supplying economic resources, and similarly with the other identified sources of political power.
POLITICAL DEFIANCE: The strategic application of nonviolent struggle in order to disintegrate a dictatorship and to replace it with a democratic system.
This resistance by noncooperation and defiance mobilizes the power of the oppressed population in order to restrict and cut off the sources of the dictatorship’s power. Those sources are provided by groups and institutions called "pillars of support."
When political defiance is used successfully, it can make a nation ungovernable by the current or any future dictatorship and therefore able to preserve a democratic system against possible new threats.
POLITICAL JIU-JITSU: A special process that may operate during a nonviolent struggle to change power relationships. In political jiu-jitsu negative reactions to the opponents’ violent repression against nonviolent resisters is turned to operate politically against the opponents, weakening their power position and strengthening that of the nonviolent resisters. This can operate only when violent repression is met with continued nonviolent defiance, not violence or surrender. The opponents’ repression is then seen in the worst possible light.
Resulting shifts of opinion are likely to occur among third parties, the general grievance group, and even the opponents’ usual supporters. Those shifts may produce both withdrawal of support for the opponents and increased support for the nonviolent resisters. The result may be widespread condemnation of the opponents, internal opposition among the opponents, and increased resistance. These changes can at times produce major shifts in power relationships in favor of the nonviolent struggle group.
Political jiu-jitsu does not operate in all cases of nonviolent struggle. When it is absent the shift of power relationships depends highly on the extent of noncooperation.
POLITICAL POWER: The totality of influences and pressures available for use to determine and implement official policies for a society. Political power may be wielded by the institutions of government, or in opposition to the government by dissident groups and organizations. Political power may be directly applied in a conflict, or it may be held as a reserve capacity for possible later use.
SANCTIONS: Punishments or reprisals, violent or nonviolent, imposed either because people have failed to act in the expected or desired manner or imposed because people have acted in an unexpected or prohibited manner.
Nonviolent sanctions are less likely than violent ones to be simple reprisals for disobedience and are more likely to be intended to achieve a given objective. Sanctions are a source of political power.
SELF-RELIANCE: The capacity to manage one’s own affairs, make one’s own judgments, and provide for oneself, one’s group or organization, independence, self-determination, and self-sufficiency.
SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE: A source of political power. The ruler’s power is supported by the skills, knowledge and abilities that are provided by persons and groups in the society (human resources) and the relation of those available skills, knowledge and abilities to the ruler’s needs for them.
SOURCES OF POWER: These are origins of political power. They include: authority, human resources, skills and knowledge, intangible factors, material resources and sanctions. These derive from the society. Each of these sources is closely associated with and dependent upon, the acceptance, cooperation, and obedience of the population and the society’s institutions. With strong supply of these sources the ruler will be powerful. As the supply is weakened or severed, the ruler’s power will weaken or collapse.
STRATEGIC NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE: Nonviolent struggle that is applied according to a strategic plan that has been prepared on the basis of analysis of the conflict situation, the strengths and weaknesses of the contending groups, the nature, capacities, and requirements of the technique of nonviolent action, and especially strategic principles of that type of struggle. See also: grand strategy, strategy, tactics, and methods.
STRATEGY: A plan for the conduct of a major phase, or campaign, within a grand strategy for the overall conflict. A strategy is the basic idea of how the struggle of a specific campaign shall develop, and how its separate components shall be fitted together to contribute most advantageously to achieve its objectives.
Strategy operates within the scope of the grand strategy. Tactics and specific methods of action are used in smaller scale operations to implement the strategy for a specific campaign.
STRIKE: A deliberate restriction or suspension of work, usually temporarily, to put pressure on employers to achieve an economic objective or sometimes on the government in order to win a political objective.
TACTIC: A limited plan of action based on a conception of how, in a restricted phase of a conflict, to use effectively the available means of action to achieve a specific limited objective. Tactics are intended for use in implementing a wider strategy in a phase of the overall conflict.
VIOLENCE: Physical violence against other human beings which inflicts injury or death, or threatens to inflict such violence, or any act dependent on such infliction or threat.
Some types of religious or ethical nonviolence conceive of violence much more broadly. This narrower definition permits adherents to those beliefs to cooperate with persons and groups that are prepared on pragmatic grounds to practice nonviolent struggle.
* Source: Gene Sharp, There Are Realistic Alternatives, (Boston: The Albert Einstein Institution, 2003). pp. 31-38. Some modifications have been made to Sharp’s definitions.