Civil Disobedience

Discipline: Political Science

Theory of principled law breaking.

The expression was used by the American writer Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) in his essay 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience', and put into action by Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi (1869-1948).

There is a conflict between a general obligation to obey the law in free and constitutional societies, and the obligation to follow one's conscience.

If a major clash occurs, the citizens may express their disagreement by openly breaking the law to demonstrate profound dissent from a particular policy. In so doing they accept the penalties which follow such action.

Also see: satyagraha

H A Bedau, ed., Civil Disobedience: Theory and Practice (Indianapolis, 1979)


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