Scholar Gene Sharp reviewed thousands of instances of nonviolent struggle and catalogued 198 different methods that were used in those encounters. At one point he called these methods "weapons," to emphasize that they are used in conflict situations. He listed them and gave historical examples of each in his 1973 book The Politics of Nonviolent Action. He grouped them into three broad categories: protest, noncooperation, and intervention, and then he further broke those into smaller classifications.
The methods of intervention may often be more directly confrontive, while the methods of noncooperation may in some situations be less so. These two groups of methods can be coercive, that is, make it impossible for an opponent to rule or carry out their policies. The other category, which Sharp calls "protest and persuasion," has methods that tend to be less confrontive, but in some situations (for example some police states) the opponent may consider them highly threatening and react accordingly.
We use Gene Sharp's classification of 198 methods in this database. He acknowledges that some methods can arguably be placed in a different category, depending on circumstance, and his classification should not be regarded as rigid. Some of the names of the methods may not be self-explanatory, so I have taken the liberty of interpreting some of them, often using Sharp's own words in the process. (Press the button "More" for further interpretation.) The material is drawn from his 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action: Part One, Power and Struggle (Boston: Porter Sargeant Publishers). Any errors I make of interpretation are my responsibility alone.
Additional methods: In researching for this database we have identified methods beyond Sharp's 198. They may of course be controversial. The user encountering them in reading the cases will probably want to return to this page and press the "More" button for those methods in order to discover our rationale for adding these methods to the 198. - George Lakey, 20/8/11
The Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion
Communications with a wider audience
Symbolic public acts
- 018. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
- 019. Wearing of symbols
- 020. Prayer and worship
- 021. Delivering symbolic objects
- 022. Protest disrobings
- 023. Destruction of own propertyMore...
- 024. Symbolic lights
- 025. Displays of portraits
- 026. Paint as protestMore...
- 027. New signs and names
- 028. Symbolic sounds
- 029. Symbolic reclamationsMore...
- 030. Rude gestures
Pressures on individuals
Honoring the dead
Withdrawal and renunciation
The Methods of Noncooperation
Ostracism of persons
Noncooperation with social events, customs and institutions
Withdrawal from the social system
Economic Noncooperation: Boycotts
Action by consumers
Action by middlemen
Action by owners and management
Action by holders of financial resources
Action by governments
Economic Noncooperation: Strikes
Strikes by special groups
Ordinary industrial strikes
Rejection of authority
Citizens’ noncooperation with government
- 123. Boycott of legislative bodies
- 124. Boycott of elections
- 125. Boycott of government employment and positions
- 126. Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies
- 127. Withdrawal from governmental educational institutions
- 128. Boycott of government-supported institutions
- 129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
- 130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
- 131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
- 132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions
Citizens’ alternatives to obedience
- 133. Reluctant and slow compliance
- 134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
- 135. Popular nonobedienceMore...
- 136. Disguised disobedienceMore...
- 137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
- 138. Sitdown
- 139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
- 140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
- 141. Civil disobedience of "illegitimate" lawsMore...
Action by government personnel
- 142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aidesMore...
- 143. Blocking of lines of command and information
- 144. Stalling and obstruction
- 145. General administrative noncooperationMore...
- 146. Judicial noncooperation
- 147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
- 148. Mutiny
Domestic governmental action
International governmental action
- 151. Changes in diplomatic and other representation
- 152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
- 153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
- 154. Severance of diplomatic relations
- 155. Withdrawal from international organizations
- 156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
- 157. Expulsion from international organisations
The Methods of Nonviolent Intervention
- 181. Reverse strikeMore...
- 182. Stay-in strikeMore...
- 183. Nonviolent land seizureMore...
- 184. Defiance of blockades
- 185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
- 186. Preclusive purchasingMore...
- 187. Seizure of assets
- 188. DumpingMore...
- 189. Selective patronageMore...
- 190. Alternative marketsMore...
- 191. Alternative transportation systems
- 192. Alternative economic institutionsMore...