Many believe that a citizen who engages in civil disobedience is not exempt from the sanctions that apply to standard law-breaking conduct. Since he is responsible for a deliberate breach of the law, he is also liable to punishment. Focusing on a conception of responsibility as answerability, I argue that a civil disobedient is responsible (i.e. answerable) to his fellows for the charges of wrongdoing, yet he is not liable to punishment merely for breaching the law. To support this claim, (...) I defend an account of political obligation framed in terms of respect for (rather than mere obedience to) the law, and argue that the mere illegality of civil disobedience does not suffice to establish wrongdoing. I then discuss and reject three objections to my argument. (shrink)
Jason Brennan has argued that democracy is intrinsically unjust, for it grants voting power to politically incompetent individuals, thus exposing people to an undue risk of harm. He claims democracy should be replaced by epistocracy, i.e., the rule of the knowers. In this paper, I show that his argument fails. First, Brennan mistakes voters’ competence for voters’ trustworthiness. Second, despite Brennan's claim to the contrary, an epistocracy may not reduce people’s exposure to an undue risk of harm. Third, Brennan overlooks (...) the fact that citizens are not equally affected by ‘bad voting.’ Fourth, far from being a defence of libertarian ideals, Brennan's argument supports paternalism. (shrink)
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 (...) fellows, hence the imposition of additional burdens upon him through legal punishment. I articulate a broader account of citizens’ fair-play duties, able to capture disobedience as well as obedience to the law. While claiming that some law-breakers may not be treated as free-riders, I also gesture at the fact that some law-obeying citizens may not be ‘playing fair’: in some cases, a failure to engage in civil disobedience represents a failure to do one’s own part within the cooperative scheme of society. (shrink)
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 (...) legal philosophy, ranging from John Rawls' seminal account in 1971, to the recent views advanced by Kimberley Brownlee, David Lefkowitz and William Smith. In the last chapter, the author proposes a novel account of civil disobedience, able to meet some of the unresolved challenges. The author argues that, to make sense of civil disobedience, we should expand our conception of political obligation, so to include acts that, despite being illegal, may reveal the agent's civility. (shrink)
It is still an open question whether or not Civil Disobedience (CD) has to be completely nonviolent. According to Rawls, “any interference with the civil liberties of others tend to obscure the civilly disobedient quality of one's act”. From this Rawls concludes that by no means can CD pose a threath to other individuals' rights. In this paper I challenge Rawls' view, arguing that CD can comprise some degree of violence without losing its “civil” value. However, I specify that violence (...) must not be aimed at seriously injuring, or even killing, other individuals. This would contravene the communicative aspect of CD. The main claim is that what really is important is that the civil disobedients be willing to accept the punishment following their law-breaking behaviour. By doing so, they demonstrate the conscientiousness of their civilly disobedient action. This also shows that they are aiming for future cooperation with the State, and are expecting the State to be sensitive to their concern for the principles of justice. (shrink)
This paper considers the boundaries of "civility" in civil disobedience, by focusing on an extreme form of protest, namely, bossnapping. The latter involves workers 'kidnapping' their bosses, in order to force them to listen to their grievances. I argue that, notwithstanding its use of force, bossnapping may, under some circumstances, fulfil the requirements of a "civil" act of disobedience.
Acts of civil disobedience, which imply the open violation of a legal directive, often result in the forceful imposition of a choice upon others (e.g. blockades). This is sometimes justifiable, within a democracy, in cases of ‘democratic deficit’, namely, when fundamental rights of an oppressed minority are at stake. In this article, I claim that the use of physical force, in a democracy, may also be justified by the rights of (at least some of) the very people upon whom force (...) is applied. Focusing on the nature of civil disobedience as a ‘form of address’, I argue: (1) using physical force to address others in the democratic arena does not entail infringing upon their status as autonomous agents; (2) using physical force to address others in the democratic arena may contribute to the fulfilment of a positive duty to promote the autonomy of (at least some of) those very people upon whom force is applied. This is not a defence of paternalism: I claim that using force against others, in the democratic arena, may be constitutive of a behaviour that treats others with the respect due to their status as autonomous agents. (shrink)
This chapter offers a critique of mainstream accounts of civil disobedience (CD) in contemporary political theory. Its goal is to highlight how the notion of “civility” is used as a political tool to sanitise and domesticate social protest. Focusing on Australia’s 2017 marriage equality campaign, the chapter highlights how the dominant conception of “civil” disobedience reproduces the logic of a patriarchal system in which women and non-mainstream men are expected to remain quiet and behave with “decorum”. The chapter draws attention (...) to the peculiarity of the Australian context, where the lack of a bill of rights fosters power inequalities by hindering vulnerable groups’ access to justice. Overall, the chapter highlights the risk of an excessive (or exclusive) focus on the behaviour of protesters, at the expense of the structural injustices they seek to unveil. (shrink)
This thesis examines the concept of civil disobedience, and the role the latter can play in a democratic society. It aims to offer a moral justification for civil disobedience that departs from consequentialist or deontological considerations, and focuses instead on virtue ethics. By drawing attention to the notion of civic virtues, the thesis suggests that, under some circumstances, an act of civil disobedience is the very act displaying a virtuous disposition in the citizen who disobeys. Such disposition is interpreted in (...) light of a duty each individual has to respect her fellow citizens as autonomous agents. This grounds, in turn, a moral obligation to respect the law. The central claim of the thesis is that the obligation towards the law is fulfilled not only through acts of obedience but also, under different circumstances, through acts of disobedience. The status of non-violence as a necessary component of civil disobedience is questioned, and it is argued that a degree of force or violence may be permissible in civil disobedience, when it is compatible with the duty to respect others’ autonomy. Subsequently, the thesis offers an analysis of ‘reasonableness’ as a civic virtue, and by comparing three different approaches to the issue of reasonable disagreement among democratic citizens, it defends the deliberative approach as the most suited for treating fellow citizens as autonomous agents. The last two chapters focus on the importance, for an act of civil disobedience, of the agent’s willingness to accept the legal consequences of her law-breaking behaviour. It is argued that a civil disobedient has an obligation to face the prospect of being punished for the breach of the law. However, in considering the behaviour of a virtuous civil disobedient who appears at her criminal trial, it is also claimed that she should plead not guilty and aim to persuade her fellow citizens that she does not deserve to be punished, because what she did does not constitute a criminal wrong. In doing so, this thesis depicts civil disobedience not as a merely permissible form of behaviour, but as a morally praiseworthy conduct within a democratic community. (shrink)
Richard Dagger purports to solve the problem of political obligation and the problem of punishment simultaneously, by employing the principle of fair play. Notwithstanding the valuable contribution his book makes to the philosophical debate, I argue that Dagger does not defeat long-standing objections faced by fair play-based justifications of the duty to obey the law and of state punishment.
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 (...) confuses duties of rescue with duties of justice. Furthermore, I point out that two central features of civil disobedience, namely, communicativeness and conscientiousness, make it unsuitable as a strategy for ‘rescue operations’. On the one hand, communicative constraints make civil disobedience time-consuming, and dependent on others’ willingness to engage in the communicative exchange. On the other, conscientiousness often requires agents to accept costs well beyond the threshold warranted by the Samaritan principle. Treating civil disobedients akin to ‘good Samaritans’ trivialises the selflessness of their sacrifices. (shrink)