I've just had the pleasure of receiving a book derived from a dissertation that won the 2005 Allan Nevins prize (given annually to the best-written dissertation in American history): Joseph Kip Kosek's Acts of Conscience: Christian NonViolence and Modern American Democracy. It's on my spring break reading list, so I hope to post further thoughts on this new work in April. In the meantime, the author has an engaging post here at the Columbia University Press blog, which I recommend.
A brief excerpt:
Everyone admires nonviolence when it remains safely in the past, but it looks a little too exotic, too effete, and perhaps even too religious to be much help in our present moment. Does nonviolence really have anything to offer amid the violent crises exploding around the world today? Seventy-five years ago, an American pacifist named Richard Gregg confronted an essentially similar question. His 1934 book The Power of Non-Violence was the first substantial attempt by an American to imagine nonviolence as a formidable strategy in the modern world, not simply as a virtuous allegiance to high-minded ideals. Many years after its initial publication, Martin Luther King, Jr. read The Power of Non-Violence and brought its central ideas into the nascent civil rights movement. King frequently cited the book as one of his most important intellectual influences, alongside the writings of Mohandas Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau. Gregg forced King, as he forces us, to realize that nonviolence is not merely admirable or historically interesting, but fundamentally necessary.