Bhavnani, Rikhil R., and Saumitra Jha. Walking Together and Alone: How Peaceful Protests Fail and Can Yet Succeed in Remaking Our World. Book manuscript.

We walk in the footsteps of the pioneers of the nonviolent approach to provide a reinterpretation of the histories of the great movements of the twentieth century from a game theoretic perspective, bringing to bear a host of new quantitative analyses to understand the challenges they faced, when they were successful at overcoming them and why.

We develop a simple conceptual framework for understanding the strategies available to both the leaders and the followers of political movements, the media and outside audiences, as well as the regimes that they seek to influence, and how these decisions interact. We use this framework to highlight the presence of three key tensions that exist in many political movements.

These tensions include: those between the allure of violence and the seeming pedestrianism of nonviolence, between the need for numbers and the need for focus, and between organizations that depend on grassroots mobilization versus hierarchies and leadership.

In light of the framework and new quantitative evidence, we then retrace and re-examine the decisions of the participants of the Indian Independence Movement in each of their three great nonviolent drives for change—the Non-Cooperation Movement of the 1920s, the Civil Disobedience Movement of the 1930s and the Quit India Movement of the 1940s—and how they succeeded or failed in addressing these tensions. At each step, we also discuss both grand strategy and the effectiveness of local tactics. We next compare the Indian experience with the movements that came after, including the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the Arab Spring and recent protests around the world. Finally, we draw on what we have learned to suggest ideas for better implement nonviolent protests today.

We provide an overview of our early research in an article in The Economics of Peace and Security Journal (“Gandhi’s Gift: Lessons for Peaceful Reform from India’s Struggle for Democracy”).

Related Coverage: Parker, Clifton B. 2014. “Gandhi’s nonviolent approach offers lessons for peace movements, Stanford scholar says.” Stanford Report, October 29.