Civil Disobedience and its Justification

Suleyman Ari

Abstract


     Colonial exploitation, racist policies, the practice of unjust war, the threat of nuclear warfare, and, contemporary social movements have been some of the major problems that led the recent theorists to reconsider civil disobedience.

      Different theorists have presented different arguments for civil disobedience. While some theorists are against it, some argued for its significance.  The properties of civil disobedience and its justification are the main concern of theorists whether to support civil disobedience or not.  Recent theorists such as John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, David Lyons and Kent Greenwalt analysed civil disobedience and provided different understanding of it. Among them, Rawlsian theory of civil disobedience has been very influential within the literature.

     In this paper I will try to give an account of civil disobedience. In doing so, I will analyze the perspectives of Rawls, Lyons and Greenwalt on civil disobedience. I will compare and contrast the views of the theorists and I will not refrain from making critical comments when necessary.  Even though these theorists hold different views on the subjectmatter, my general observation is that they all provide useful insights as to the proper understanding of civil disobedience. My own view is that the justification of civil disobedience depends on the nature of tactics through which it is practiced and its purpose for which it is practiced.

 

Keywords: Civil Disobedience, Nonviolence, Justification, Democracy, Justice


References


Greenawalt, K. (1970). A Contextual Approach to Disobedience. Columbia Law Review, 48-80.

Lyons, D. (1995-1996). Political Responsibility and the Resistance to Civil Government. Philosophic Exchange, 5-25.

Lyons, D. (2010). Courage and Political Resistance. BUL Rev., 90, 1755.

Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. London: Oxford University Press.

Zinn, H. (1968). Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order. New York: Random House/Vintage.


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