The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense

A Gandhian Approach

By Robert J. Burrowes

Subjects: Conflict Resolution
Paperback : 9780791425886, 367 pages, November 1995
Hardcover : 9780791425879, 367 pages, November 1995

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Table of contents



The Social Cosmology

The Strategic Theory and the Strategic Framework

What Is Nonviolent Defense?


The Structure of the Argument

1. The Strategic Theory of Clausewitz

2. Conceptions of Strategy

The Indirect Approach

Are There Universal Principles of Strategy?

The Importance of Psychology

The Dimensions of Strategy

3. Conceptions of Society

4. Human Nature and Human Needs

The Dominant Conception of Human Nature

The Importance of Human Needs

Individuals and Their Identity Groups


5. Conflict Resolution through Problem Solving

The Dominant Conception of Conflict

Burton's Theory of Conflict

Galtung's Theory of Conflict

Conflict Insights Derived from Psychology

The Origins of International Conflict

The Levels at Which Conflict May Be Resolved

Problem Solving as an Approach to Conflict

Needs or Power?

6. The Nature of Power

The Consent Theory of Power

The Structural Theory of Power


7. The Gandhian Conception of Nonviolence

Four Major Approaches to Nonviolence

The Gandhian Conceptions of Society and the Individual

The Gandhian Conceptions of Conflict and Nonviolence

The Reformist and Pragmatic Approaches to Nonviolent Action

The Importance of Power and Will

Nonviolent Action and Coercion


8. The Strategic Theory and Framework of Nonviolent Defense

The Strategic Theory of Nonviolent Defense

The Strategic Framework of Nonviolent Defense


9. The Search for Security

Feminist Perspectives on Security

Indigenous Peoples' Perspectives on Security

The South's Perspective on Security

The Deep Ecological Perspective on Security

Cooperative Security

10. The Strategic Theory of Nonviolent Defense

Two Conceptions of "Nonviolent Defense"

Arguments against Civilian-Based Defense

Military Aggression and Nonviolent Defense

The Strategic Theory of Nonviolent Defense

Shortcomings in the Strategic Orientation of Civilian-Based Defense

11. Planning and Organizing Nonviolent Defense

Strategic Planning

The Political and Strategic Assessment

The Conception of Nonviolence



Internal Communication

Advance Preparations

The Constructive Program


12. The Strategy and Tactics of Nonviolent Defense

The Political Purpose and the Strategic Aims

The Strategic Timeframe


Strategic Considerations in the Selection of Nonviolent Tactics

Secrecy and Sabotage


Nonviolent Defense Against an Extremely Ruthless Opponent

13. The Strategic Counteroffensive

The Opponent Elite's Will

Economic Sanctions

The First Domain: The Opponent Elite's Troops

The Second Domain: The Opponent Elite's Domestic Constituency

The Third Domain: The Domestic Constituencies of Allied Elites

Solidarity Action






Addresses the question of whether nonviolent defense can be an effective strategy against military violence. Drawing from the strategic theory of Carl von Clausewitz, the nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi, and recent human needs and conflict theory, Burrowes develops a new strategic theory of nonviolent defense.


Because of the way in which the history of nonviolence has been marginalized, relatively few people have a sense of the rich history of nonviolent struggle or realize that it can be systematically planned and applied. Nevertheless, the historical record illustrates that nonviolent struggle is a powerful form of political action. But can it be effective against military aggression?

The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense answers this question in the affirmative by first defining the notion of "social cosmology"—the four mutually reinforcing features that determine the character of any society. It then devotes attention to strategies for dealing with conflict, in particular, to developing a strategic theory and framework for planning a strategy of nonviolent defense. In order to develop this theory, Burrowes synthesizes insights drawn from the strategic theory of Carl von Clausewitz, the nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi, and recent human needs and conflict theory.

Robert J. Burrowes has been a member of the Australian Nonviolence Network since 1981 and has been involved in many nonviolent action campaigns. He is best known for his war tax resistance, his involvement in the campaign of the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group, and his membership in the Gulf Peace Team. He now devotes all of his time to nonviolent activism, education, and research.


"The author does an exceptional job at questioning underlying assumptions (for example patriarchy, political realism, and the elitism of states). As a scholar in the area of nonviolent defense in my own right, I found myself personally benefited by this book's theme of moving beyond a statist perspective on conflict toward one which recognizes the non-satisfying of human needs as the cause of conflict. " — Norman C. Freund, author of Nonviolent Defense: A Philosophical Inquiry into Applied Nonviolence

"The author develops in clear prose, and with impressive documentation, a persuasive approach to a strategy of nonviolent defense, which has not been done before in such a systematic and comprehensive manner. The book's focus is of great importance for conflict theory, international relations, and the role of violence in inter-group relations. " — Richard Falk, Princeton University