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Thoreau – Civil Disobedience

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Thoreau – Civil Disobedience. 1846 – Henry David Thoreau refused to pay a poll tax – he was arrested and jailed to his disdain, his relatives paid his tax for him to release him from jail

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thoreau civil disobedience
Thoreau – Civil Disobedience
  • 1846 – Henry David Thoreau refused to pay a poll tax – he was arrested and jailed
  • to his disdain, his relatives paid his tax for him to release him from jail
  • Thoreau denies the right of any government to automatic and unthinking obedience. Obedience should be earned and it should be withheld from an unjust government.
thoreau civil disobedience2
Thoreau – Civil Disobedience
  • Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.
thoreau civil disobedience3
Thoreau – Civil Disobedience
  • Two times when open rebellion is justified:
    • when the injustice is no longer occasional but a major characteristic
    • when the machine (government) demands that people cooperate with injustice.
  • Thoreau declared that, “If the government requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”
  • 72 year movement for women’s right to vote
  • Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party
  • letter-writing, protests, marches, days of silence, hunger strikes, civil disobedience
  • Early work was based off of Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience
  • led movement for Independence of India
  • took Thoreau’s concept of disregarding unjust laws one step further – to disobeying nonviolently
gandhi nonviolence
Gandhi – nonviolence
  • nonviolence is the refusal to respond with violence, regardless of how violently you are treated.
  • Satyagraha – “struggle for truth” or “truth force”
    • Gandhi wanted to challenge in-equal social structures without setting off a spiral of violence
later social movements
Later social movements
  • U.S. Civil Rights Movement
  • Solidarity
  • Anti-apartheid movement
    • Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Post-Soviet independence movements