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Civil Disobedience from Thoreau to Transnational Mobilizations: The Global Challenge

1 June 2007


Until very recently, civil disobedience, being a deliberate infraction of the law which is politically or morally motivated, was logically interpreted by theorists as a practice rooted in the state, since the source of positive law was primarily the State. But in the context of today’s globalization, the diversification of sources of power, the emergence of international laws or rules, or simply the obsoleteness of viewing the government as a juridical model, lead one to question the relevance of resorting to civil disobedience. Indeed, its strategic minimalism, which consists of non-cooperation, passive resistance or non-violence, in addition to its relative acceptance of the State and the legal framework of its discourse, seem to make civil disobedience unable to face the “global challenge” that any emancipatory movement has to confront if it wants to be efficient. This paper thus proposes a new conception of civil disobedience inspired by Nancy Fraser’s theory of “abnormal justice”, so as to take into account the transversal nature of social contestation.


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