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Power in Numbers

Power in Numbers: The Political Strategy of Protest and Rebellion

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Power in Numbers
    Book Description:

    This book explores the logic of struggle between radical movements and incumbent regimes, and develops a general theory of strategy in protests, uprisings, and rebellions.

    Originally published in 1985.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5502-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Philip E. Converse

    Upon rare occasion, a manuscript one is driven to read by one or another form of professional obligation turns out to be a treasure. This is such a book. Like many original and powerful works, it takes a set of old and familiar raw materials and reassembles them in an unexpected way, illuminating them from a new angle of vision which, one imagines, can revise their apperception forever.

    The subject and method seem at first glance to be ill-suited to one another. The main ingredients are the letters, polemics, and other works of revolutionaries in our modern period, ranging from...

    (pp. xv-2)
    (pp. 3-7)

    InWhat Is To Be Done?we discover both a careful defense of Lenin’s own political strategy for revolution and sharp attacks against opponents he variously identified as “Economists,” “terrorists,” “Economist-terrorists,” “opportunists,” “tail-enders,” “worshippers of spontaneity,” “conciliators,” and “Bernsteinians.” Lenin’s taxonomy of political deviations, polemical though it was, should not be dismissed as the figment of a besieged imagination. Rather, it was an accurate representation of the complex factional divisions within the European Marxist movement around the turn of the century. Nor were these divisions on questions of strategy unlike those to be found in other radical movements that have...

  7. CHAPTER ONE History and Strategy in Theories of Revolution
    (pp. 8-32)

    Among the many difficult questions that confront theorists of revolution, one of the most enigmatic and elusive goes something like this: Do the grand forces of history or do the calculated strategies of revolutionaries and regimes play a more fundamental role in deciding the timing, the outcomes, and the dynamics of revolutionary struggles?

    Now it should be admitted at the outset that many theorists find little occasion for controversy in such a question. Lawrence Stone concludes in his review of the recent theoretical literature about revolutions that

    everyone is agreed in making a sharp distinction between long-run, underlying causes—the...

  8. CHAPTER TWO A Formal Model of Protest and Rebellion
    (pp. 33-57)

    In order to build a rigorous theory of strategy in protest and rebellion, the elements of the political situation facing radical movements must now be defined systematically. This delicate operation requires a judicious balancing of competing objectives, including generality, abstraction, and tractability on one hand, and political richness, realism, and relevance on the other.

    We suppose, in our theory, that protesters and rebels seek ultimately to displace the policies of their governments by creating disruption in the streets. Since governments sometimes make it their policy to restructure society, this conception of the dissidents’ purpose is general enough to accommodate even...

  9. CHAPTER THREE The Logic of Peaceful Protest
    (pp. 58-86)

    Although radical politics are notoriously violent, one should not forget the crucial role played by nonviolent modes of disruption in many of history’s most stirring episodes of political dissent and opposition to authority. The overthrow of British colonial rule in India, the American civil-rights reform legislation of the 1960s, and even the historic October Revolution in Russia were largely accomplished, and quite amazingly so, without recourse to violence. How this could happen is only one of the fascinating political questions raised by this important class of strategies. Studying their dynamics provides an excellent introduction to our theoretical system and many...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Pragmatists and Purists
    (pp. 87-105)

    In the last chapter, we developed a bare-bones model of protest and used it to explore the potential for winning concessions with several kinds of strategy. Having acquired the necessary means for assessing the effectiveness of alternative strategies, we must now ask how this latent potential for change is translated into political action. The most straightforward (and naive) solution to the problem is simply to assume that dissident leaders choose the strategy that brings them closest to realizing their ideal policy. This method of deriving predictions about actions from a description of the movement’s political environment is simple and plausible....

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Reformers and Revolutionaries
    (pp. 106-123)

    If the “revolutionary idea” was the keystone of Marx’s theoretical structure,¹ the reformist idea was surely the keystone of Bernstein’s. The divergent perceptions of reformers and revolutionaries were very much at the core of the revisionist controversy, igniting the passions of its participants and shaping their arguments. In the pages that follow, we shall explore our own theoretical system for insights about the political foundations of these perspectives, their strategic implications, and their factional meaning. This task may seem a bit ambitious, if not altogether wrongheaded, given the currently modest dimensions of the theory. It certainly is not obvious on...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Moderates and Radicals
    (pp. 124-143)

    One of the bitterest ironies of prewar Social Democracy was the stormy relationship that developed between trade unionists and the movement’s Marxist theoreticians. Marx, it is true, embraced the trade unions as “schools of socialism,” but this seemingly natural alliance disintegrated as the nineteenth century wore on. By the turn of the century, Lenin was describing trade unionism as “the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie,” and emploring his party “to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under [the bourgeoisie’s] wing.”¹

    In Germany, the conservative stance of the unions created enormous difficulties for...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Organization and Strategy
    (pp. 144-153)

    If we proceed on the assumption that political effectiveness alone governs the dissidents’ choice of strategy, their strategy-making organization fades into a neverland of theoretical irrelevancy. The game boils down to surveying the political situation and identifying the strategy that accomplishes the most. As soon as we move beyond naive models of rational choice, however, the problem of organization assumes a central theoretical role. The evidence about the revisionist controversy makes the following points clear:

    1. Tangible concessions are not the only criterion governing decisions about strategy. Principles matter too.

    2. Radical movements sometimes harbor people with markedly dissimilar strategic...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Repression
    (pp. 154-187)

    In this chapter, we shall consider the impact of repression on recruiting and strategy in dissident movements. Understanding the strategic implications of repression requires first that we explain why people make personal sacrifices for dissident causes. In other words, we need an explicit model of the cost-benefit calculations that motivate individuals to join demonstrations when it appears that participating in them will be dangerous and unpleasant. Thus far, we have assumed that individuals simply compare the movement’s demand to the government’s policy in deciding whether or not to take to the streets. Let us continue to assume that this comparison...

  15. CHAPTER NINE The Political Strategy of Violent Disruption
    (pp. 188-228)

    In the theory of peaceful protest, we have deliberately shunted aside the tactical elements of strategy making so that basic dynamics that shape the radicals’ demands might receive the undivided attention they deserve. The political fate of most radical movements depends far more on the size of their following than on tactical finesse. It should not be surprising, then, that many of the grand questions of strategy in protests and insurrections show up readily in a theory that equates power with numbers.

    Despite its broad analytical utility, the power-in-numbers approach remains completely silent about the political rationale for waging violent...

  16. CHAPTER TEN The Logic of Terrorism
    (pp. 229-242)

    Terrorism has much in common with other forms of political violence, but its logic nevertheless demands special attention. The fundamental difference, of course, is that terror emanates from the underground, while rioting, looting, trashing, and pillaging rage in the streets for all to see (including the police). The element of conspiracy is essential in explaining how terrorism originates, its political rationale, and the quandaries it creates, both for its perpetrators and its targets.

    Like all violent tactics, terrorism can be interpreted as an effort to create more disruption without mobilizing more people. That terrorism often springs from groups on society’s...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN Violence and Factionalism
    (pp. 243-264)

    Reasoning that simply describes the circumstances in which violent tactics are more or less effective should not be accepted as an explanation for why radical movements use them. A complete analysis must also consider the process of competition by which the radicals select violent measures from a broader menu of alternatives. Such decisions necessarily reflect the political aspirations and predispositions of the dissident strategists, aspirations that surely include tangible political concessions but rarely to the exclusion of other objectives. Thus, we shall often be misled about the likelihood of violence and the reasons for its appearance if we ignore the...

  18. INDEX
    (pp. 265-267)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 268-268)