Civil Disobedience


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Civil Disobedience

A symbolic, non-violent violation of the law, done deliberately in protest against some form of perceived injustice. Mere dissent, protest, or disobedience of the law does not qualify. The act must be nonviolent, open and visible, illegal, performed for the moral purpose of protesting an injustice, and done with the expectation of being punished.

By peacefully and openly violating the law and submitting to punishment, those engaging in civil disobedience hope to draw attention to the law they hope to reform, the injustice they hope to stop, or the policy or practice they hope to end. By calling into question the justness, fairness, Equity, or propriety of the status quo, persons engaging in civil disobedience usually appeal to some form of higher law, whether it be the divine law of god, Natural Law, or some form of moral reasoning.

The philosophical underpinnings for civil disobedience can be found in New Testament writings which report on the teachings of Jesus. They also appear in works by Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson. In a famous essay entitled "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau claimed that the individual is "a higher and independent power" from which the state obtains its authority. As individuals, people must not wait for the government to recognize injustice and instigate reform, Thoreau said, because the machinery of government moves too slowly. If individuals have right on their side, then they must do right by trying to peacefully and openly change society.Civil disobedience has been extensively employed around the world by nationalist movements (e.g., mohandas gandhi used civil disobedience to protest against British colonial rule in India), Civil Rights leaders (e.g., martin luther king jr. used civil disobedience to protest against racial Segregation laws in the United States), and anti-war protestors (e.g., Muhammad Ali used civil disobedience to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War), among others.

Cross-references

Civil Rights Movement; Protest.

References in periodicals archive ?
Another argument often put by those who oppose civil disobedience is that it is undemocratic.
This discretion is troublesome in the civil disobedience context because of the risk that jurors may consider protected expression in arriving at the award.
This was the case in an iconic instance of civil disobedience: in 1955 a young black woman, Rosa Parks, defied the Montgomery, Alabama, law requiring city buses to be racially segregated by confining black passengers to the back of the bus, giving white passengers preference over them.
For his part, Rawls was adamant that any law-breaking be undertaken "within the limits of fidelity to the law." He was echoing Martin Luther King, Jr., who argued that one who breaks the law in the name of civil disobedience "is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law," by highlighting its fundamental injustice in such a way as not to foreclose on future cooperation with one's fellow citizens.
But what I did leave behind the day I jumped the fence was my doubt about the effectiveness of my civil disobedience, that it wouldn't have made any difference if I had stayed on the lawful side of the fence.
While King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference used black churches as operational bases, the civil disobedience tactics came from his adherence to the teaching of Mahatma Ghandi, a Hindu.
Not because of civil disobedience, but because neither the proponent nor the City of Toronto wanted the liability of groundwater possibly becoming contaminated.
Walden, Civil Disobedience, Life Without Principle, Slavery in Massachusetts, and A Plea for Captain John Brown are included in their entirety.
The statements said there was no justification for civil disobedience. "We think the call for civil disobedience and non-payment of utility bills is equal to destroying the national economy," they said.
Aristotle and black drama; a theater of civil disobedience.
The article is particularly interesting for questioning Berrigan's definition of civil disobedience by his becoming a fugitive after losing an appeal of the Catonsville Nine verdict.
Al-Nouba told Yemen Times that the armed wing of the Southern Movement, headed by the former president of the South, Ali Salem Al-Beidh, has called for civil disobedience in Southern governorates in order to escalate the situation.

Full browser ?