Person power is a term coined by Michael Nagler to describe the core energy at the heart of any nonviolent social movement. Nonviolence begins with an individual’s conversion of a negative drive to a positive drive. When one person transforms fear, anger, or aggression, into universal love, compassion, and resilience, nonviolence is born. According to Cardinal Jaime Sin, even though two million people were in the streets of Manila during the Philippines People Power movement, that movement ultimately consisted of “two million individual decisions.”
Scholars of strategic nonviolence such as Gene Sharp describe people power as the key factor in nonviolent events ― with enough people together on the streets anything is possible, although a lack of discipline can result in an unhelpful mob mentality known as the effervescence of the crowd. The term person power was coined to account for the fact that people power’s focus on numbers fails by to recognize the importance of the individual in revealing nonviolent truth. Both terms are contrasted with and often stand in opposition to state power.