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Violent Civil Disobedience and Willingness to Accept Punishment

1 June 2007


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.


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