passive resistance a method of nonviolent protest against laws or policies in order to force a change or secure concessions; it is also known as nonviolent resistance and is the main tactic of civil disobedience. Passive resistance typically involves such activities as mass demonstrations, refusal to obey or carry out a law or to pay taxes, the occupation of buildings or the blockade of roads, labor strikes, economic boycotts, and similar activities.
Possibly originating with the Quakers, it was adopted by Africans, Indians, and U.S. civil-rights and anti–Vietnam War protesters. Among its most articulate advocates have been Gandhi, who maintained that action needs to be accompanied by love and a willingness to search for the truth, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who called for "tough-mindedness and tenderheartedness." Two of the most massive examples of passive resistance were the Solidarity movement in Poland (1980–81) and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia (1989). Opponents of passive resistance as a means of forcing a change in policy have criticized it for potentially fostering a general disrespect for law that could result in anarchy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.