Friday, December 23, 2016

A few thoughts on “passive resistance”

“Passive resistance” is an awful term: it is not a true oxymoron in the sense that it might be “surprisingly true,” but rather close to a conceptual and practical contradiction insofar as it is both descriptively and normatively misleading. We need not accept Gandhi’s stark contrast between “principled nonviolence” (i.e., satyāgraha) and what he called “nonviolence of the weak,” that is, “passive resistance,” to see this, for strategic or tactical nonviolence need not denote or imply weakness in either one’s methods or in the character of or power wielded by those who’ve chosen such means and methods from motivations that differ from those intrinsic to the political morality crafted by Gandhi (which does not, in turn, efface the value of a conceptual or moral distinction between principled and strategic nonviolence). There are different ideals and models of nonviolent theory and praxis that reflect different kinds of political motivation and political morality: so, different types of nonviolent resistance, none of which is truly “passive.”

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