Precluding Nonviolence, Propelling Violence: The Effect of Internal Fragmentation on Movement Protest



Scholars often overlook that an adequate explanation of why a movement uses violent means of protest requires an account of why it does not instead use nonviolent means. This essay argues that while paths to violence are multiple, there is one prevailing path to nonviolent protest—that which opens when a movement is politically cohesive. Cohesion approximates a necessary condition for nonviolent protest because such protest requires coordination and collective restraint. Conversely, fragmentation generates incentives and opportunities that increase the likelihood that protest will become violent. This argument, specified in terms of composite mechanisms and demonstrated by overtime variation in the Palestinian case, critiques the assumption that movements can be treated as unitary actors. It also shifts attention from movements’ motivations to their organizational configurations.


Nonviolence Violence Social movements Palestinians Middle East Arab–Israeli conflict 



The author is thankful for feedback on this paper gained at the Northwestern University Comparative Historical Social Science Workshop, University of Chicago Comparative Politics Workshop, Harvard University Middle East Politics Workshop, and Northeast Middle East Politics Workshop, among other conferences. She is also grateful for funding support for the research and writing of this article, provided by the United States Institute of Peace, the Palestinian American Research Center, the Harvard University–Hebrew University Graduate Fellowship, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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