Security Without Weapons: Rethinking violence, nonviolent action, and civilian protection, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Security Without Weapons

Rethinking violence, nonviolent action, and civilian protection, 1st Edition

By M. S. Wallace


264 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138944862
pub: 2016-09-13
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315671369
pub: 2016-09-13
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Few questions of global politics are more pressing than how to respond to widespread violence against civilians. Despite the efforts of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) proponents to draw attention away from exclusively military responses, debates on humanitarian intervention and R2P’s “Third Pillar” still tend to boil down to two unsatisfying options: stand by and “do nothing” or take military action to protect civilians – essentially using violence to stop violence. Accordingly – and given disagreement and uncertainty regarding moral claims, as well as the unpredictability of military effectiveness – this book asks: how can we counter violence ethically and effectively, taking action consistent with our particular moral commitments while also nurturing difference and enacting responsibility towards multiple others?

After evaluating the pragmatic and ethical failings of military action, the book proposes nonviolent intervention as a third – unarmed, on-the-ground – option for protecting civilians during humanitarian crises. In the empirical section of the book, focusing on the discursive and psychological conditions enabling violence, Wallace analyses the mechanisms by which Nonviolent Peaceforce – an international NGO engaged in nonviolent intervention/ unarmed civilian peacekeeping (UCP) – was able to protect civilians and prevent violence, even if on a limited scale, in the broader context of Sri Lanka’s war/counterinsurgency in 2008.

Both philosophically innovative and practically useful to those working in the field, the book contributes to a range of literatures and debates: from just war theory and poststructuralist ethics to nonviolent action and conflict transformation, and from humanitarian intervention, R2P, and civilian protection to strategic theory and discursive and psychological theories of violence.


'In the burgeoning literature on nonviolence, Security Without Weapons stands out for its theoretical sophistication, its rich empirical analysis, and its multiple insightful contributions to discussions around violence, war, humanitarian intervention and civilian protection. Eloquent, impassioned, incisive and thoroughly convincing, M. S. Wallace clearly illustrates the value of including nonviolence and pacifism in international relations theorizing about the use of force. Most importantly, this book offers hope - the realistic and practical hope of breaking out of global cycles of violence and building more peaceful societies.' - Richard Jackson, University of Otago, New Zealand

Table of Contents


Part I: Violence and nonviolence

Chapter 1: Challenging the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate violence

Chapter 2: Questioning the efficacy of violence

Chapter 3: Enacting conviction and provisionality through nonviolent action: difference, responsibility to the other(s), and the nonviolent coercion or transformation of the opponent

Part II: Understanding violence in Sri Lanka's civil war and counterinsurgency

Chapter 4: Confronting wrongs, creating wrongs: official discourses and the legitimation of violence

Chapter 5: Making sense of violence: media accounts and combatants’ understandings

Part III: Confronting violence in Sri Lanka's civil war and counterinsurgency

Chapter 6: Assessing armed and unarmed strategies: toward a psycho-discursive theory of civilian protection and violence prevention

Chapter 7: Rethinking protection: Nonviolent Peaceforce in Sri Lanka


About the Author

M. S. Wallace is a visiting scholar in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and previously taught at the University of New Hampshire and Brown University, USA.

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins ( and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General