Sunday, October 31, 2010

Historical Use of the Term Political Jiu Jitsu or Political Ju Jitsu

The term Political Jiu Jitsu or Political JuJitsu is a new one to me.  I heard it on a news show referring to the act of taking one's strength and twisting it to seem like its their weakness.  An acadwmic seacribed it as "The ability of weak actors to exploit the frequent contradictions that arise-particularly in advanced liberal democracies-between normative commitments and material interests."  Huh...uh...ok...  The origins of the use of this term is unknown, but it is something that appeared in the 2008 presidential race. 

This post did better research on the term ( "In his classic study, The Power of Nononviolence (1934), Richard B. Gregg coined the term “moral jiu jitsu” to describe the principles undergirding Gandhi’s satyagraha as he had seen them operate in India.  Martin Luther King, Jr. considered Gregg’s book one of five that most profoundly shaped his thought, and wrote the foreword to an edition published in 1960. (An abridged version of that edition is here.)  Gregg argued that the use of physical violence by groups that seek to challenge a repressive order legitimizes a violent response by that order, and since that order usually has a far greater capacity for violent force, this is a losing strategy.  A refusal to use violence, on the other, causes the repressive order to lose moral balance, in the same way that jiu jitsu causes an attacker to lose physical balance.

In 1973, political scientist Gene Sharp, termed by one commentator “the Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare,” published The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  In it, he dropped “moral jiu jitsu” in favor of “political jiu-jitsu,” a phrase intended to encompass tactics that went beyond Gregg’s emphasis on the psychological effect of nonviolent resistance.  The metaphor informs the entire book, and a key chapter is entitled “Political Jiu-Jitsu.”  Its first paragraph defines the term:

Political jiu-jitsu is one of the special processes by which nonviolent action deals with violent repression. By combining nonviolent discipline with solidarity and persistence in struggle, the nonviolent actionists cause the violence of the opponent’s repression to be exposed in the worst possible light. This, in turn, may lead to shifts in opinion and then to shifts in power relationships favorable to the nonviolent group. These shifts result from withdrawal of support for the opponent and the grant of support to the nonviolent actionists.

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