Situational Influences on Nonviolent Action
While holding personal beliefs in support of nonviolent behavior is very important, any analysis of nonviolence requires the careful consideration of the situational constraints from the micro- through the macro-level. This analysis will incorporate the framework of Ross and Nisbett (1991), which builds on the powerful and pioneering work of Kurt Lewin and casts light on many causes of social behavior. From Ross and Nisbett’s perspective, social behavior is a function of three variables: (1) the nature of the situation, (2) the way individuals construe the situation, and (3) the dynamic systems of tension across levels of human experience from individual psyches, through small groups, to national levels.
Accordingly, this chapter is organized around these three dimensions. The first dimension, the situation, involves the social reality surrounding a person or group, as well as, the actual grievance that is to be addressed by the nonviolent action itself. The nature of grievances may be categorized according to the human rights, needs, or values that are violated or frustrated and thereby activating nonviolent political action. While Ross and Nisbett (1991) note the influence of early behaviorists like John Watson in focusing on the importance of the situation in determining behavior, the behaviorist position, unfortunately, did not adequately attend to the next two aspects of the situation. The second dimension involves the psychological factors that affect the construal processes and refers to the ways in which individuals engaged in nonviolent action interpret and understand the situation within which they are embedded. The third dimension involves the tension system and it encompasses the organizational, group, and individual tensions with which individuals engaged in nonviolent action are confronting. This dimension also reflects conflicting norms and personal values in addition to their cultural and national values (Schwartz, 1990).
KeywordsRevolving Door Death Anxiety Tension System Mortality Salience Fate Control
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