Civil disobedience

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The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade. ~ Hannah Arendt

Civil disobedience refers to the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government or of an occupying power without resorting to physical violence.

See also:
Civil Disobedience, for the famous essay on the subject by Henry David Thoreau
Crime
Dissent
Rebellion

Quotes[edit]

There is nothing automatic or intuitive about the resoluteness required for using non-violent methods in political struggle and the quest for Truth. ~ Mohandas Gandhi
  • The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade.
    • Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic (1969), "Civil Disobedience".
  • Closely allied with this earnest longing to see and know the truth, is a kind of dignified and princely sentiment which forbids a mind, naturally well constituted, ... to yield obedience to any orders but such as are at once just, lawful, and founded on utility.
    • Cicero, De Officiis, Book 1, § 13
  • Social protest and even civil disobedience serve the law's need for growth. Ideally, reform would come according to reason and justice without self-help and disturbing, almost violent, forms of protest. … Still, candor compels one here again to acknowledge the gap between the ideal and the reality. Short of the millennium, sharp changes in the law depend partly upon the stimulus of protest.
    • Archibald Cox, Civil Rights, the Constitution, and the Courts (1967: Harvard University Press), pp. 22–23 (40 N.Y. State B.J. 161, 169 (1968)).
  • Civil Disobedience is civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments. The expression was, so far as I am aware, coined by Thoreau to signify his own resistance to the laws of a slave state. . . . But Thoreau was not perhaps an out and out champion of non-violence. Probably, also, Thoreau limited his breach of statutory laws to the revenue law, i.e. payment of taxes. Whereas the term Civil Disobedience as practised in 1919 covered a breach of any statutory and unmoral law. It signified the resister's outlawry in a civil, i.e., non-violent manner . . . Until I read that essay I never found a suitable English translation for my Indian word, Satyagraha.
  • Non-violent resistance implies the very opposite of weakness. Defiance combined with non-retaliatory acceptance of repression from one's opponents is active, not passive. It requires strength, and there is nothing automatic or intuitive about the resoluteness required for using non-violent methods in political struggle and the quest for Truth.
    • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, as quoted in Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr: The Power of Nonviolent Action (1999) by Mary King, p. 231.
  • If a law commands me to sin I will break it; if it calls me to suffer, I will let it take its course unresistingly. The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.

Author (1836), p. 20.

  • Men of the most renowned virtue have sometimes by transgressing most truly kept the law.
  • Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
  • I died to the law so that I might live for God.
  • Thoreau's disobedience is disobedience as refusal. I won't live in your world. I will live as if your world has ended, as indeed it deserves to end. I will live as if my gesture of refusing your world has destroyed it.
    • Curtis White, “The spirit of disobedience: An invitation to resistance,” Harper’s, April 2006, p. 36
  • Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made.
    • Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man under Socialism,” ¶ 9

External links[edit]

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