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Confronting InjusticeMoral History and Political Theory$
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David Lyons

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199662555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199662555.001.0001

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Moral Judgment, Historical Reality, and Civil Disobedience 1

Moral Judgment, Historical Reality, and Civil Disobedience 1

Chapter:
(p.130) 7 Moral Judgment, Historical Reality, and Civil Disobedience1
Source:
Confronting Injustice
Author(s):

David Lyons

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199662555.003.0008

Thoreau’s famous essay on civil disobedience places his own tax resistance within a critique of government in general and the ante‐bellum US government in particular. This essay interprets and defends Thoreau’s conception of political responsibility, including his rejection of a blanket duty to obey and his endorsement of a duty to disobey (the latter an important idea, which is embraced by other prominent and articulate resisters, such as Gandhi and King, but that is neglected in the academic literature on civil disobedience). Given US policies on slavery, its war on Mexican, and its treatment of Native Americans, Thoreau renounced his allegiance to the government. Although he seemed to suggest that one might simply deny complicity in the government’s injustices, he insisted that persons and peoples have an absolute duty to undo the wrongs they have done, whatever the cost

Keywords:   civil disobedience, political obligation, thoreau, gandhi, king, slavery, colonial rule, jim crow

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