The Justification of Civil Disobedience

The relationship between the state and the citizens has been subject to various interpretations. The role and power of the state over its subject have received wide coverage. In this paper, we shall explore the justification of civil disobedience from the perspective of its three main proponents: Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. We will argue that while civil disobedience can be seen as a justified form of protest, it is not without its problems.

2. Civil Disobedience

a. Thoreau

Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” was published in 1849, in response to the Mexican-American War and the expansion of slavery that it entailed. In it, Thoreau argues that citizens have a duty to disobey unjust laws. He justify this position by appeal to the higher law of conscience:

“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

Thoreau’s argument rests on the idea that there is a higher law than the law of the state, and that one has a duty to obey this higher law even if it means disobeying the laws of the state. Thishigher law is conscience or, as Thoreau puts it, “the rule of right reason.”

b. Gandhi

Gandhi’s understanding of civil disobedience was deeply influenced by Thoreau’s essay. In his own writing on the subject, Gandhi extends Thoreau’s argument by appealing to the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence. Gandhi’s famous statement that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” expresses his belief that violence can never be justified, no matter what the provocation.

Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience was instrumental in winning Indian independence from British rule. His most famous campaign was the Salt March of 1930, in which he led a group of protesters on a 240-mile walk to the sea to collect salt, in defiance of Britain’s salt monopoly. This peaceful act of defiance helped to rally public opinion against British rule and sparked a wave of similar protests across India.

3. Slavery

a. Colonialism

The institution of slavery has a long and dark history. For centuries, human beings were bought and sold like commodities, subjected to brutal treatment and forced to work in inhuman conditions. The slave trade was justified by a perverted notion of racial inferiority: slaves were seen as less than human, and their enslavement was seen as a necessary evil for the advancement of civilization.

The slave trade was integral to the development of the British Empire. Britain’s colonies in the Americas were built on the backs of slaves, and the slave trade was a lucrative business for British merchants. In the late 18th century, however, a growing movement for abolition began to challenge this cruel institution.

b. Freedom

The abolitionist movement was based on the simple idea that slavery is morally wrong and that all human beings are entitled to freedom. The movement was led by courageous men and women who were willing to risk their lives in the fight for justice. One of the most famous abolitionists was William Wilberforce, who devoted his life to campaigning against slavery.

The abolitionist movement eventually succeeded in winning freedom for millions of slaves. In 1807, Britain passed a law banning the slave trade, and in 1833, it passed a law abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire. These laws were a major victory for the forces of freedom and justice.

4. Martin Luther King, Jr.

a. Nonviolence

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement. He was a Baptist minister who preached a message of love and reconciliation, in contrast to the violence and hatred that characterized the Jim Crow South. He advocated a nonviolent approach to protesting against discrimination and injustice, inspired by Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience.

King’s most famous campaign was the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956, in which black residents of Montgomery, Alabama refused to ride the city buses in protest against segregation. This boycott lasted for 381 days and resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation on buses to be unconstitutional.
King’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance was also evident in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he called for an end to racism in America. This speech is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever delivered, and it helped to inspire a new generation of civil rights activists.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, we have seen that civil disobedience can be justified on both moral and pragmatic grounds. While it is not without its problems, civil disobedience remains an important tool for those who wish to fight against discrimination and injustice.


Different countries approach criminal justice in different ways. Some countries have a more punitive approach, while others focus on rehabilitation. There is no one right way to approach criminal justice, and each country has to find what works best for them.

Some of the challenges in comparative criminal justice include language barriers, cultural differences, and different legal systems. It can be difficult to compare apples to oranges when it comes to criminal justice systems, but it is important to try to understand how other countries do things.

Comparative criminal justice is moving in the direction of trying to standardize methods and procedures so that comparisons can be made more easily. This includes things like data collection and analysis, as well as training for law enforcement officers.