About this topic
Summary The label civil disobedience encompasses acts of law-defiance which are deemed to be compatible with core principles of a liberal democracy, e.g. a commitment to the rule of law. Civil disobedience is usually considered a justifiable form of illegal conduct, aiming to further dialogue in society around issues of justice. The debate on civil disobedience concerns, among other issues, whether civil disobedience must be nonviolent and/or imply a willing submission to the legal punishment, and the appropriate legal response to this form of illegal conduct. 
Key works Rawls 1971 and Raz 1979 set the foundations for early debates on the topic. More recently, Brownlee 2012, Delmas 2018, Moraro 2019 have reassessed and restated some of the core issues, highlighting the limitations of the Rawlsian model.
Introductions The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy page on Civil Disobedience compiled by Brownlee & Delmas 2021. For a more recent introduction, see Delmas 2016
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238 found
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1 — 50 / 238
  1. Just Disobedience: An Answer to the Question,“Is It Ever Just to Disobey a Law?”.Mike Cameron - forthcoming - Canadian Undergraduate Philosophy Journal Revue Canadienne de Philosophie Étudiante.
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  2. Environmental Activism and the Fairness of Costs Argument for Uncivil Disobedience.Ten-Herng Lai & Chong-Ming Lim - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    Social movements often impose nontrivial costs on others against their wills. Civil disobedience is no exception. How can social movements in general, and civil disobedience in particular, be justifiable despite this apparent wrong-making feature? We examine an intuitively plausible account – it is fair that everyone should bear the burdens of tackling injustice. We extend this fairness-based argument for civil disobedience to defend some acts of uncivil disobedience. Focusing on uncivil environmental activism – such as ecotage (sabotage with the aim (...)
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  3. Clarifying Our Duties to Resist.Chong-Ming Lim - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1.
    According to a prominent argument, citizens in unjust societies have a duty to resist injustice. The moral and political principles that ground the duty to obey the law in just or nearly just conditions, also ground the duty to resist in unjust conditions. This argument is often applied to a variety of unjust conditions. In this essay, I critically examine this argument, focusing on conditions involving institutionally entrenched and socially normalised injustice. In such conditions, the issue of citizens’ duties to (...)
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  4. Rescue Missions in the Mediterranean and the Legitimacy of the EU’s Border Regime.Hallvard Sandven & Antoinette Scherz - forthcoming - Res Publica:1-20.
    In the last seven years, close to twenty thousand people have died trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Rescue missions by private actors and NGOs have increased because both national measures and measures by the EU’s border control agency, Frontex, are often deemed insufficient. However, such independent rescue missions face increasing persecution from national governments, Italy being one example. This raises the question of how potential migrants and dissenting citizens should act towards the EU border regime. In (...)
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  5. Piero Moraro, Civil Disobedience: A Philosophical Overview.William Smith - forthcoming - Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-6.
    Piero Moraro offers an illuminating and insightful survey of the philosophical literature on civil disobedience, illustrating how the conversation has evolved since the debates triggered by the social movements of the 1960s. The principal value of the book is that it showcases the multifaceted complexion of the emerging philosophical terrain, thus correcting the erroneous but still common perception that civil disobedience is a mere adjunct to interminable debates about the duty to obey. The book also offers original contributions to the (...)
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  6. Civil Disobedience.Kimberley Brownlee & Candice Delmas - 2021 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  7. Youth Movements, Civil Disobedience, and the Skandalon of the Ecological Crisis.Nuno Pereira Castanheira - 2021 - Veritas – Revista de Filosofia da Pucrs 65 (3):e38231.
    The ecological crisis is endangering life on Earth as we know it, giving rise to multiple protests, strikes and marches around the world, most of them lead by children and teenagers. The aim of this paper is to argue for the legitimacy of the presence of children and teenagers in political life in the current state of the ecological crisis through a seemingly paradoxical kind of participation: civil disobedience, i.e. refusal to participate. The paper will start by addressing the need (...)
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  8. Christian Bioethics and the Partisan Commitments of Secular Bioethicists: Epistemic Injustice, Moral Distress, Civil Disobedience.Mark J. Cherry - 2021 - Christian Bioethics 27 (2):123-139.
    Secular bioethicists do not speak from a place of distinction, but from within particular culturally, socially, and historically conditioned standpoints. As partisans of moral and ideological agendas, they bring their own biases, prejudices, and worldviews to their roles as ethical consultants, social advocates, and academics, attempting rhetorically to sway others and shift policy to a preferred point of view. Their pronouncements represent just one voice among others, even when delivered with strident rhetoric, in an educated and knowing tone, from within (...)
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  9. Cosmopolitan Disobedience.Steve Cooke - 2021 - Journal of International Political Theory 17 (3):222-239.
    Increasingly, protests occur across borders and are carried out by non-nationals. Many of these protests include elements that break the laws of their host country and are aimed at issues of global concern. Despite the increasing frequency of transnational protest, little ethical consideration has been given to it. This article provides a cosmopolitan justification for transnational disobedience on behalf of self and others. The article argues that individuals may be justified in illegally protesting in other states, and that in some (...)
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  10. Of Rebels and Disobedients: Reflections on Arendt, Race, Lawbreaking.Ayça Çubukçu - 2021 - Law and Critique 32 (1):33-50.
    Hannah Arendt valued the unprecedented, the unexpected, and the new, yet in essays crafted at the end of the rebellious 1960s, struggled to square this valuation with a palpable desire for law and order. She lamented that criminality had overtaken American life, accused the police of not arresting enough criminals, and charged ‘the Negro community’ with standing behind what she named black violence. At once, she praised ‘the white rebels’ of the student movement in the United States for their courageous (...)
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  11. Civil Disobedience, Not Merely Conscientious Objection, In Medicine.Dana Howard - 2021 - HEC Forum 33 (3):215-232.
    Those arguing that conscientious objection in medicine should be declared unethical by professional societies face the following challenge: conscientious objection can function as an important reforming mechanism when it involves health care workers refusing to participate in certain medical interventions deemed standard of care and legally sanctioned but which undermine patients’ rights. In such cases, the argument goes, far from being unethical, conscientious objection may actually be a professional duty. I examine this sort of challenge and ultimately argue that these (...)
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  12. Thoreau and the Idea of John Brown: The Radicalization of Transcendental Politics.Ilkin Huseynli - 2021 - The Pluralist 16 (3):112-125.
    Henry David Thoreau’s defense of John Brown has been interpreted as an inconsistency in his political philosophy. Since Thoreau was best known for his commitment to civil disobedience, his critics argued that his support for Brown constitutes a break in Thoreau’s political thought. However, I argue that "A Plea for John Brown" should be seen as a radicalization of Thoreau’s transcendental politics rather than an inconsistency in his writings. To understand this decade-long process of radicalization requires an analysis of Thoreau’s (...)
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  13. The Philosophy of Protest: Fighting for Justice Without Going to War.Jennifer Kling & Megan Mitchell - 2021 - New York: Rowman & Littlefield International.
    Rather than looking at protest in the ideal case, this book looks at how protest is actually practiced and argues that suitably constrained violent political protest is sometimes justified.
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  14. Kant and the Problem of Unequal Enforcement of Law.Daniel Koltonski - 2021 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 20 (2):188-210.
    Kant infamously opposes not only revolution but also any resistance or disobedience by citizens that aims to compel states to reform themselves. This paper argues that, in fact, the Kantian account of the legitimate state has the resources for a distinctive justification of principled disobedience, including even violent or destructive resistance, that applies to citizens of contemporary Western democracies. When a state fails to enforce the law equally, this lack of equal enforcement can deprive some citizens of the equal assurance (...)
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  15. Civil Disobedience, Costly Signals, and Leveraging Injustice.Ten-Herng Lai - 2021 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 7:1083-1108.
    Civil disobedience, despite its illegal nature, can sometimes be justified vis-à-vis the duty to obey the law, and, arguably, is thereby not liable to legal punishment. However, adhering to the demands of justice and refraining from punishing justified civil disobedience may lead to a highly problematic theoretical consequence: the debilitation of civil disobedience. This is because, according to the novel analysis I propose, civil disobedience primarily functions as a costly social signal. It is effective by being reliable, reliable by being (...)
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  16. Henry David Thoreau: Civil Disobedience.David Lombard, Robert Clark & Cristina Sandru - 2021 - The Literary Encyclopedia.
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  17. Obedience and Disobedience in Plato’s Crito and the Apology: Anticipating the Democratic Turn of Civil Disobedience.Andreas Marcou - 2021 - The Journal of Ethics 25 (3):339-359.
    Faced with a choice between escaping without consequences and submitting to a democratic decision, Socrates chooses the latter. So immense is Socrates’ duty to obey law, we are led to believe, that even the threat of death is insufficient to abrogate it. Crito proposes several arguments purporting to ground Socrates’ strong duty to obey, with the appeal to the Athenian system’s democratic credentials carrying most of the normative weight. A careful reading of the dialogue, in conjunction with the ‘Apology’, reveals, (...)
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  18. Violence, Communication, and Civil Disobedience.Andreas Marcou - 2021 - Jurisprudence 12 (4):491-511.
    The proliferation of civil disobedience in recent times has prompted questions about violence and justified resistance. Non-violence has traditionally been associated with civil disobedience. If ci...
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  19. The Cambridge Companion to Civil Disobedience.William E. Scheuerman (ed.) - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    The theory and practice of civil disobedience has once again taken on import, given recent events. Considering widespread dissatisfaction with normal political mechanisms, even in well-established liberal democracies, civil disobedience remains hugely important, as a growing number of individuals and groups pursue political action. 'Digital disobedients', Black Lives Matter protestors, Extinction Rebellion climate change activists, Hong Kong activists resisting the PRC's authoritarian clampdown…all have practiced civil disobedience. In this Companion, an interdisciplinary group of scholars reconsiders civil disobedience from many perspectives. (...)
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  20. Civil Disobedience Outside of the Liberal Democratic Framework: The Case of Sudan.Yeelen Badona Monteiro - 2020 - South African Journal of Philosophy 39 (4):376-386.
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  21. Theorizing the Politics of Protest: Contemporary Debates on Civil Disobedience.Çiğdem Çıdam, William E. Scheuerman, Candice Delmas, Erin R. Pineda, Robin Celikates & Alexander Livingston - 2020 - Contemporary Political Theory 19 (3):513-546.
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  22. Book Review: Civil Disobedience. [REVIEW]Gabriel Busch de Brito - 2020 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 47 (7):873-876.
    Philosophy & Social Criticism, Ahead of Print.
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  23. Linguistic Disobedience.David Miguel Gray & Benjamin Lennertz - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (21):1-16.
    There has recently been a flurry of activity in the philosophy of language on how to best account for the unique features of epithets. One of these features is that epithets can be appropriated (that is, the offense-grounding potential of a term can be removed). We argue that attempts to appropriate an epithet fundamentally involve a violation of language-governing rules. We suggest that the other conditions that make something an attempt at appropriation are the same conditions that characterize acts of (...)
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  24. Gendered Dissent in the Arab Uprising: The Challenges and the Gains.Sherine Hafez - 2020 - European Journal of Women's Studies 27 (4):348-361.
    The events that followed the revolution of 25 January 2011 demonstrated the tenacity and resilience of gendered dissent and its centrality to collective action and civil disobedience, thus enriching the transnational feminist archive with the experiences and praxis of gendered revolutionary action. Paying particular attention to women’s activism during the uprisings in Egypt, this article focuses on the broader themes of gendered political resistance and the intersections of gender ideology, state policing, Islamism and militarism with protest and collective action. The (...)
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  25. Are Dissenters Epistemically Arrogant?Tine Hindkjaer Madsen - 2020 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 15 (1):1-23.
    “One who elects to serve mankind by taking the law into his own hands thereby demonstrates his conviction that his own ability to determine policy is superior to democratic decision making. [Defendants’] professed unselfish motivation, rather than a justification, actually identifies a form of arrogance which organized society cannot tolerate.” Those were the words of Justice Harris L. Hartz at the sentencing hearing of three nuns convicted of trespassing and vandalizing government property to demonstrate against U.S. foreign policy. Citizens engaging (...)
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  26. Book Review: A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil, by Candice Delmas. [REVIEW]Jennet Kirkpatrick - 2020 - Political Theory 48 (4):528-533.
  27. Political Vandalism as Counter‐Speech: A Defense of Defacing and Destroying Tainted Monuments.Ten‐Herng Lai - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (3):602-616.
    Tainted political symbols ought to be confronted, removed, or at least recontextualized. Despite the best efforts to achieve this, however, official actions on tainted symbols often fail to take place. In such cases, I argue that political vandalism—the unauthorized defacement, destruction, or removal of political symbols—may be morally permissible or even obligatory. This is when, and insofar as, political vandalism serves as fitting counter-speech that undermines the authority of tainted symbols in ways that match their publicity, refuses to let them (...)
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  28. Power for the Powerless: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Late Theory of Civil Disobedience.Alexander Livingston - 2020 - Journal of Politics 2 (82):700-713.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” has been canonized as an essential statement of the political theory of civil disobedience. This article examines the early reception of King’s essay and the development of the liberal idea of civil disobedience it has become synonymous with to argue that its canonization coincided with, and displaced, the radicalization of King’s developing thinking about disobedience. It examines published and archival writings from 1965 through 1968 to reconstruct King’s power-oriented theory of “mass” (...)
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  29. Tough Love: The Political Theology of Civil Disobedience.Alexander Livingston - 2020 - Perspectives on Politics 3 (18):851-866.
    Love is a key concept in the theory and history of civil disobedience yet it has been purposefully neglected in recent debates in political theory. Through an examination of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s paradoxical notion of “aggressive love,” I offer a critical interpretation of love as a key concept in a vernacular black political theology, and the consequences of love’s displacement by law in liberal theories of civil disobedience. The first section locates the origins of aggressive love in an earlier (...)
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  30. Civil Disobedience, Epistocracy, and the Question of Whether Superior Political Judgment Defeats Majority Authority.Tine Hindkjaer Madsen - 2020 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 17 (6):606-632.
    I outline a new approach to the question of when civil disobedience is legitimate by drawing on insights from the epistocracy literature. I argue that civil disobedience and epistocracy are similar in the sense that they both involve the idea that superior political judgment defeats majority authority, because this can lead to correct, i.e. just, prudent or morally right, political decisions. By reflecting on the question of when superior political judgment defeats majority authority in the epistocracy case, I identify considerations (...)
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  31. Unruly Kids? Conceptualizing and Defending Youth Disobedience.Nikolas Mattheis - 2020 - European Journal of Political Theory:147488512091837.
    Taking the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement as its starting point, this article conceptualizes and defends youth disobedience, understood as principled disobedience by legal minors. The article first...
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  32. The Costs of Disobedience: A Reply to Delmas.Piero Moraro - 2020 - Res Publica 26 (1):143-148.
    According to the Samaritan principle, we have a duty to rescue others from perils when we can do so at no unreasonable cost to ourself or others. Candice Delmas has argued that this principle generates a duty to engage in civil disobedience, when laws and practices expose people to ‘persistent Samaritan perils’: by engaging in this form of protest, she claims, citizens can contribute to the rescue of the victims of serious injustice. In this article, I contend that her argument (...)
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  33. Grey Zones of Resistance and Contemporary Political Theory.Maša Mrovlje & Jennet Kirkpatrick - 2020 - Theoria 67 (165):1-9.
    Of late, resistance has become a central notion in political theory, standing at the heart of attempts to respond to the dilemmas of contemporary times. However, many accounts tend to ascribe to an idealised, heroic view. In this view, resistance represents a clearcut action against injustice and stems from individuals’ conscious choice and their unwavering ethical commitment to the cause. Some liberal scholars, most notably Candice Delmas and Jason Brennan, have argued that citizens of democratic societies have a moral duty (...)
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  34. Civil Disobedience.William Smith - 2020 - Contemporary Political Theory 19 (3):202-205.
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  35. Why Socrates’ Legs Didn’T Run Off to Megara.Ellisif Wasmuth - 2020 - Phronesis 65 (4):380-413.
    I argue that the arguments presented in Socrates’ dialogue with the personified Laws of the Crito are arguments Socrates endorses and relies upon when deciding to remain in prison. They do not, however, entail blind obedience to every court verdict, nor do they provide necessary and sufficient conditions for resolving every dilemma of civil disobedience. Indeed, lacking definitional knowledge of justice, we should not expect Socrates to be able to offer such conditions. Instead, the Laws present an argument that is (...)
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  36. Must I Accept Prosecution for Civil Disobedience?Daniel Weltman - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (279):410-418.
    Piero Moraro argues that people who engage in civil disobedience do not have a pro tanto reason to accept punishment for breaking the law, although they do have a duty to undergo prosecution. This is because they have a duty to answer for their actions, and the state serves as an agent of the people by calling the lawbreaker to answer via prosecution. I argue that Moraro does not go far enough. Someone who engages in civil disobedience does not even (...)
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  37. Book Review: Civil Disobedience, by William Scheuerman. [REVIEW]Maeve Cooke - 2019 - Political Theory 47 (4):589-594.
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  38. Book Review: Civil Disobedience, by William Scheuerman. [REVIEW]Maeve Cooke - 2019 - Political Theory 47 (4):589-594.
  39. Civil Disobedience, Punishment, and Injustice.Candice Delmas - 2019 - In Larry Alexander & Kimberly Kessler Ferzan (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Applied Ethics and the Criminal Law. Springer Verlag. pp. 167-188.
    This chapter examines the tension between the justification and the punishment of civil disobedience, and theorists’ common solutions to it, by focusing on two central questions: first, should the state punish civil disobedience? Second, should the civil disobedient accept punishment? It presents the theoretical lay of the land on each of these questions, with particular attention to American jurisprudence on civil disobedience. The third part takes a step back to ask anew, how should we think about civil disobedience? and uncovers (...)
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  40. On Compromise in Radical Environmental Activism.Małgorzata Dereniowska & Jason P. Matzke - 2019 - Humanistyka I Przyrodoznawstwo 24:9-38.
    Mainstream environmental groups have long been criticized by more radical activists as being too willing to compromise with industry and development interests. Radical groups such as Earth First! and Earth Liberation Front were formed as a reaction explicitly against perceived failures of mainstream groups. Although the radical activism employed varied from direct action in the form of aggressive civil disobedience coupled with eco sabotage, the tactics of the radical groups suggest two strands of movement. For example, the actions and demands (...)
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  41. Content Neutrality: A Defense.Joseph Dunne - 2019 - Journal of Ethical Urban Living 2 (1):35-50.
    To date, both the United States federal government and twenty-one individual states have passed Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that aim to protect religious persons from having their sincere beliefs substantially burdened by governmental interests. RFRAs accomplish this by offering a three-pronged exemption test for religious objectors that is satisfied only when (1) an objector has a sincere belief that is being substantially burdened; (2) the government has a very good reason (e.g., health or safety) to interfere; and (3) there is (...)
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  42. On the Permissible Use of Force in a Kantian Dignitarian Moral and Political Setting, Or, Seven Kantian Samurai.Robert Hanna & Otto Paans - 2019 - Philosophical Investigations 13 (28):75-93.
    On the supposition that one’s ethics and politics are fundamentally dignitarian in a broadly Kantian sense—as specifically opposed to identitarian and capitalist versions of Statism, e.g., neoliberal nation-States, whether democratic or non-democratic—hence fundamentally non-coercive and non-violent, then is self-defense or the defense of innocent others, using force, ever rationally justifiable and morally permissible or obligatory? We think that the answer to this hard question is yes; correspondingly, in this essay we develop and defend a theory about the permissible use of (...)
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  43. Arendt on Freedom, Liberation, and Revolution.Kei Hiruta (ed.) - 2019 - London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
    This edited volume focuses on what Hannah Arendt famously called “the raison d’être of politics”: freedom. The unique collection of essays clarifies her flagship idea of political freedom in relation to other key Arendtian themes such as liberation, revolution, civil disobedience, and the right to have rights. -/- In addressing these, contributors to this volume juxtapose Arendt with a number of thinkers from Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls and Philip Pettit to Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon and Geoffroy de Lagasnerie. They also (...)
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  44. Civil Disobedience, William E. Scheuerman, Cambridge and Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018. [REVIEW]Ervin Kondakciu - 2019 - Constellations 26 (3):508-510.
  45. Justifying Uncivil Disobedience.Ten-Herng Lai - 2019 - Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy 5:90-114.
    A prominent way of justifying civil disobedience is to postulate a pro tanto duty to obey the law and to argue that the considerations that ground this duty sometimes justify forms of civil disobedience. However, this view entails that certain kinds of uncivil disobedience are also justified. Thus, either a) civil disobedience is never justified or b) uncivil disobedience is sometimes justified. Since a) is implausible, we should accept b). I respond to the objection that this ignores the fact that (...)
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  46. Delmas, Candice. A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 312. $29.95. [REVIEW]Ten-Herng Lai - 2019 - Ethics 129 (4):710-715.
    Delmas successfully guides us to reconsider the traditional “wisdom” of civil disobedience. She also makes a strong case for expanding the notion of political obligation, which has been narrowly construed as mere obedience, to encompass a duty to resist. Principled disobedience, either civil or uncivil, includes a wide range of tools to tackle different forms of injustice, such as education campaigns, peaceful protests, graffiti street art, whistleblowing, vigilante self-defense, and political riots. We may question to what extent the violent disobedience (...)
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  47. Against Civil Disobedience: On Candice Delmas’ A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil.Alexander Livingston - 2019 - Res Publica 25 (4):591-597.
  48. On a Belief-Relative Moral Right to Civil Disobedience.Tine Hindkjaer Madsen - 2019 - Res Publica 25 (3):335-351.
    Acts of civil disobedience are undertaken in defense of a variety of causes ranging from banning GMO crops and prohibiting abortion to fighting inequality and saving the environment. Recently, Brownlee has argued that the merit of a cause is not relevant to the establishment of a moral right to civil disobedience. Instead, it is the fact that a dissenter believes his cause for protest to be morally right that is salient. We may term her and similar such theories belief-relative theories (...)
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  49. Civil Disobedience: A Philosophical Overview.Piero Moraro - 2019 - Rowman & Littlefield International.
    What is the difference between civil and uncivil disobedience? How can illegal protest be compatible with a democratic regime based on the rule of law? Is Edward Snowden a civil disobedient? This book follows the philosophical debate around these and other issues, showing how the notion of civil disobedience has evolved from a form of passive resistance against injustice, to an active way to engage with the political life of the community. The author presents the major contributions in political and (...)
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  50. Punishment, Fair Play and the Burdens of Citizenship.Piero Moraro - 2019 - Law and Philosophy 38 (3):289-311.
    The fair-play theory of punishment claims that the state is justified in imposing additional burdens on law-breakers, to remove the unfair advantage the latter have enjoyed by disobeying the law. From this perspective, punishment reestablishes a fair distribution of benefits and burdens among all citizens. In this paper, I object to this view by focusing on the case of civil disobedience. I argue that the mere illegality of this conduct is insufficient to establish the agent’s unfair advantage over his lawabiding (...)
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