Minority Oppression and Justified Revolution

Journal of Social Philosophy 41 (4):442-453 (2010)
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Abstract

This paper operates from the assumption that revolution is a legitimate tool for members of oppressed minority groups to secure their rights. I argue that this type of robust right of revolution cannot be derived from Locke’s justification of revolution in the Second Treatise. For Locke, revolution is justified when the government uses its power in a manner contrary to the principles on which the state was established. Whether or not an action is contrary to these principles is determined by the people as a whole (i.e., the majority). Members of oppressed minority groups, therefore, would be justified in exercising their right of revolution only if they could garner support from a majority of the citizenry. In many instances, satisfying this criterion would require oppressed individuals to receive support from their oppressors—a practical impossibility. Since this requirement is rooted in Locke’s account of the origins of civil society, if it is the case that revolution is a legitimate tool for members of oppressed minority groups to secure their rights, then it would be necessary to look elsewhere for theoretical support to justify a robust right of revolution. I argue that such support can be found in a deontological account of civil society.

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Chris W. Surprenant
University of New Orleans

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References found in this work

Second treatise on government.John Locke - 1690/1980 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.
Political philosophy.Jean Hampton - 1997 - Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
An American Dilemma.Gunnar Myrdal, Howard Odum & Carey Mcwilliams - 1944 - Science and Society 8 (3):283-286.

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