Social Change And The 3.5% Rule

Posted on October 5, 2019

Non-violent resistance won voting rights for women, India its independence and black Americans their rights.  It has also mobilised climate change, empowered the labor movement, closed down or cancelled dozens of nuclear plants, and any other number of other actions in social and political contexts.  

When compared to armed or other violent action, non-violent resistance has also historically been the most effective. It is not always guaranteed to work however, and even those actions that are in the end successful, may come with short term despair about the inevitability and intractability of the status quo. 

Erica Chenoweth from Harvard University studied hundreds of campaigns over the last century, and concluded that non-violent resistance achieved twice as many wins as violent, and what’s more, that when only 3.5% of the population is mobilised for change, every action ended in success. 

Feature photo taken by Diego Casanova at the 2019 Official Animal Rights March in Auckland, New Zealand.  

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