European Journal of Political Theory
Theorists of political obligation have long devoted special attention to civil disobedience, establishing its pride of place as an object of philosophical analysis, and as one of a short list of exceptions to an otherwise binding obligation to obey the law. Yet all of this attention to civil disobedience has left the broader terrain of resistance to injustice relatively under-theorized. What other forms of action are justifiable – even required – in the face of systemic injustice? Candice Delmas’ A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil offers an original and powerful defense of the idea that we have a duty to resist, and that carrying out this duty may sometimes require going beyond civil disobedience – engaging in forms of action that are evasive, shocking, violent, or otherwise deemed “uncivil.” Building on a wealth of recent scholarship and a rich set of examples, Delmas grounds the duty to resist in the same principles that political philosophers routinely use to defend an obligation to obey the law: the natural duty of justice, the principle of fair play, Samaritan duties to rescue others from peril, and the associative duties of membership. In making room for uncivil forms of dissent, however, I contend that Delmas ironically hollows out the category of civil disobedience, wedding it too tightly to a principle of decorum, and isolating it from protest that exceeds the boundaries of the communicative. Nevertheless, A Duty to Resist is an excellent – and much needed – contribution to the literature on dissent and disobedience.
civil disobedience, resistance, protest, dissent, incivility, civility, political obligation
© The Author(s) 2019
Pineda, Erin, "Civil Disobedience, and What Else? Making Space for Uncivil Forms of Resistance" (2021). Government: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.