by Dean Pruitt and Jeffrey Rubin
Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Selection [on irrevocable comments in Social Conflict] from: Dean Pruitt and Jeffrey Rubin, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate and Settlement, (New York: Random House, 1986), pp. 57-8.
The authors discuss the use of irrevocable commitments in nonviolent resistance. For example, by announcing his irrevocable commitment to fast until certain British policies were changed, Gandhi effectively shifted responsibility for the conflict's course onto the British. Once Gandhi's commitment was made, whether he lived or died would depend solely on Britain's actions. The authors observe that "on virtually every occasion in which nonviolence was tried in India...the tactic worked as intended."[p. 58]
Although Gandhi's use of irrevocable commitments was nonviolent, such tactics are still contentious, designed to result in unacceptable consequences unless the opponent takes ameliorative action. Irrevocable commitments differ from threats. Threats propose some future action (reward or punishment) in response to the opponent's actions. An irrevocable commitment undertakes some course of action, to which the opponent must then respond.