Ideology of Civil Disobedience

Definition of Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government. By some definitions,civil disobedience has to be nonviolent to be called “civil”. Hence, civil disobedience is sometimes equated with peaceful protests or nonviolent resistance.

John Locke (1632–1704)

There is no such thing as illegitimate political rule, according to Locke. However, he claims that the right to resist is an individual right, and is a duty to rebel the unjust rule.

He declares any kind of rebellion as a sin, but only in cases where the ruler starts to act wrongfully, that becomes no longer a sin. In cases where the sovereign starts to act as unjust, the subjects are obeying his power, and not his authority, therefore justifying any form of resistance. Lock embraces the revolt that the rulers have commanding as the unjust, therefore endangering the law of nature and the common good, naming them as the ‘’real rebels’’.

The dissolution of the government has been seen, through Locke’s thinking, as a condition in which the governance can be adjusted by the people, however only in situations where the society is not dissolved and the subjects are able to bond with each other in order to serve a common goal- creation of a new form of adaptable governance.

The answers for the repulsion towards tyrants, and the regulations for ones, he had written in his work in ” The Second Treatise of Government”. ”As usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a right to; so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to.

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And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private separate advantage. When the governor, however intitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule; and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.” (Locke, 1689)

Henry Thoreau (1817–62)

A great example for the roots of the non-violent civil disobedience is in the work of the Thoreau Henry David, whereas he had shown through his own experience, the effect of this act, as an answer to the unjust, in this case, American government. He had widened the perception of the unjust, seeing the unmoral doings of the government to be the reason for such rebellion, such as engaging into conflicting affairs, or toleration of humane injustice and such. Thoreau has been analysing the minor disobediences that can be used to confront the state. And, as an answer to the unmoral, Thoreau has been exercising tax evasion, as a non-violent act of disobedience, through which the subjects are not violating equivalently as the state. He had claimed that the electoral outcomes cannot be recognized as the opinion of the whole community, therefore the individual rebellion is a independent thought of a citizen, which can be seen as a form of exercising liberal democratic ideologies. Thoreau’s thinking, thus has many variables which effect the right for a subject to resist, as well as the state’s credibility to be obeyed.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948)

One of the most famous examples of the civil disobedience is the Mahatma Ghandi’s resistance towards the British colonials. The very goal of the resistance was to insert a pressure in the political, and economical directions on the British imperialists, therefore not enforcing violence whatsoever. As mentioned in the Calvinist’s policies towards the unjust, the very beginning of this movement was seen in the civil disobedience towards the ones who were presenting the authority, in a way, however with significantly lessened political power. However, the true inspiration to Ghandi was the Thoreau’s behaviour on the applicable situation, whereas he had invoked the non-violent form of resistance, which was firstly acknowledged as ‘’passive resistance’’. Nonetheless, due to the momentous activeness of the movement, the further development of the Ghandi’s act has been called as ‘’civil resistance’’. The notion of the movement, had to present the so-called ‘’moral hatred’’ that the population had towards the oppression of the colonial system. The terms were tactically used, due to the willingness to create peaceful signals of repulsion. The significance of this movement, is the motive of it, and dedication of the anti-colonials, not just to change the system, but to entirely progress into India’s independence, which makes this very movement as revolutionary as it is.


The topic of the disobedience of the unjust ruler creates a clash of many ideologies, created by many thinkers, evolving from the medieval periods, to the modern times. To understand the boundaries of subjugation, and to know when is it actually right to resist the oppression of one system, it is important to realize what kind of detailed principles there are, in order to analyse this matter. All of the theories mentioned, have a significant impact to the today’s politics and international relations, and resolve the mysteries of the tangled events of unjust rule, and the right of the people to resist to the regimes which are doing inequitable. Primarily, the political systems throughout the history, have been emplacing various obstacles in the political structures, making it difficult to resolve when is the motive for resistance justifiable. Nevertheless, through the thinker’s points of view, the main concepts of the state, as an alliance formed through social contract, and the basics of the establishment of a government, are crucial to percept the prevention of the similar events from happening.

Also, the form of the governance, as well as the organization of the population, and their ideologies, must be on an equivalent level, for a state to be just and functional. The ability of the subjects to make regulations in the regimes which are implying the decline of ‘’moral’’ politics, and acts of unjust, is merely significant, by which is the appearance of social contract visible. The factors that were influencing the very creation of an unjust systems, were often related to fairly regulated political structures, which were presenting controlled distribution of power, and making space for abuse of it, evolving into tyranny. The resolutions emplaced by the theories which were recognized far from the present, are applicable even in today’s political world, with more adaptable environment, and institutions, for establishment of a form of resistance, or more ‘’utopian’’

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Ideology of Civil Disobedience. (2021, Nov 17). Retrieved from

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