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Religion and War Resistance in the Plowshares Movement

Religion and War Resistance in the Plowshares Movement

$32.99 (P)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics

  • Date Published: April 2008
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521717670

$ 32.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • As the nuclear arms race exploded in the 1980s, a group of U.S. religious pacifists used radical nonviolence to intervene. Armed with hammers, they broke into military facilities to pound on missiles and pour blood on bombers, enacting the prophet Isaiah’s vision: “Nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Calling themselves the Plowshares movement, these controversial activists received long prison sentences; nonetheless, their movement grew and expanded to Europe and Australia. In this book, Sharon Erickson Nepstad documents the emergence and international diffusion of this unique form of high-risk collective action. Drawing on in-depth interviews, original survey research, and archival data, Nepstad explains why some Plowshares groups have persisted over time while others have struggled or collapsed. Comparing the U.S. movement with less successful Plowshares groups overseas, Nepstad reveals how decisions about leadership, organization, retention, and cultural adaptations influence movements’ long-term trajectories.

    • Provides insight into the practices and support structures that sustain high-risk activism over time
    • Offers a comparative analysis of a sustained movement with others that have declines, collapsed, or never fully mobilized
    • Documents the unique theology of resistance that the Plowshares movement developed to justify its controversial tactics
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “This original and intensely compelling study breaks new ground in the study of the emergence and international spread of religious radical activism. A sophisticated exploration of how emotion, moral principles, and personal ties bring people into high-risk activism and what sustains them over time.”
    -Kathleen Blee, University of Pittsburgh

    “Starting in the United States, small groups of religious people attacked weapons of mass destruction with small hammers and their own blood. Sharon Nepstad tells the compelling story of how this movement spread around the world, adapting different forms depending upon the religious and political setting. She gives voice to these activists, but rather than simply turning then into heroes or cranks, she explains the roots of their sustained activism. She convincingly shows how a sort of religious faith, even the faith of atheists, allows people to continue their efforts despite significant shifts in political opportunity. This is a fascinating book, essential for anyone who wants to make sense of long term political commitment in hard times.”
    -David S. Meyer, University of California at Irvine

    “This is a wonderful read. Theoretically sophisticated, insightful in its conclusions about why some movements endure, Religion and War Resistance in the Plowshares Movement is also a fascinating account of people whose activism is, to many, enigmatic. In Nepstad's fine rendering, religious pacifists' determination to act without concern for the consequences, indeed, their eager contemplation of arrest and conviction, become not strange but admirable.”
    -Francesca Polletta, University of California at Irvine

    "As a whole, the book offers an in-depth examination of the US Plowshares movement throughout history and a comparative analysis of divergent pathways that the international Plowshare movements took. In addition, she extends her analysis by offering a compelling and theoretically informed discussion of movement trajectories over time." -Canadian Journal of Sociology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521717670
    • length: 284 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Challenges and trajectories
    2. Historical development of the U.S. Plowshares Movement
    3. Tactical legitimation and the theology of resistance
    4. Sustaining commitment
    5. Death of a charismatic leader
    6. Intermittent resistance: the German, Dutch, and Australian Plowshares Movements
    7. Internal tensions and implosion: the Swedish Plowshares Movement
    8. Witnessing or winning? The British Plowshares Movement
    9. From failed attempts to persistent resistance: understanding divergent movement trajectories.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Religion & Politics
    • Religion, Conflict, and Social Movements
  • Author

    Sharon Erickson Nepstad, University of Southern Maine

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