The mainstream literature on civil resistance and nonviolent action tends to focus on widespread unarmed resistance against internal or external repression, or on major social movements. It has paid less attention to small scale and indirect forms of resistance, although these may be described in the context of the evolution of particular movements, In recent years there has also been growing interest in how ordinary people maintain and express resistance to domination over long periods at either an individual or communal level. Some forms of indirect or small scale resistance can either be a prelude to mass open confrontation, or occur after an unarmed revolt has been (at least temporarily) crushed. In extremely repressive circumstances indirect resistance may be the only possible strategy for a long period: the aim may be to maintain a culture under threat, maintain morale, for example through forms of symbolic action or oblique ridicule of the regime, and to undermine the scope and efficiency of repressive rule. Such resistance can either be highly organised or largely unorganised, and may use official public occasions to make a point, spring out of communal activity such as street parties, or be an individual gesture.
Some of the works below examine indirect or hidden forms of conscious political resistance. But there is also a literature that focuses on largely apolitical ‘everyday resistance’ to various forms of social oppression by peasants and workers, or by women in patriarchal societies. J.C. Scott (listed below) is particularly associated with this approach. Social scientists influenced by Foucault may also study forms of apolitical ‘resistance’. It is not always clear whether dissident subcultures and behaviour are means of making domination tolerable or a prelude to outright political resistance – Scott discusses whether and how the first might mutate into the second. ‘Everyday’ resistance, which may involve contempt for the official laws, can also shade into behaviour that might be categorised as ‘criminal’.