Civil Disobedience Is the Active Term Paper

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John Locke's social theory not only permits disobedience but also a revolution if the State violates its side of the contract. Martin Luther King, Jr. says that civil disobedience derives from the natural law tradition in that an unjust law is not a law but a perversion of it. He, therefore, sees consenting to obey laws as not extending or including unjust laws.

At present, a new and different form of civil disobedience has developed with the invention of computer technology (Wray 1996). The Critical Art Ensemble's Electronic civil disobedience enables one to travel back to the historic periods of civil disobedience in the U.S. And how it developed through the years. The full potential of electronic civil disobedience has not been explored as a tool in effecting political change. The common opinion or view is that electronic civil disobedience will be go in the same direction. With more and more hackers getting politicized and protesters becoming computerized, the number of cyber-activities to engage in electronic civil disobedience will increase. Traditional acts of trespassing and blockage will be committed but, this time, electronically or digitally. The primary site will be cyberspace. In this millennium, the number of virtual sit-ins, wherein government and corporate web sites are blocked, will increase. If civil disobedience during the Vietnam War and the Gulf War sent thousands into the streets to obstruct the flow of normal business and governance by acting on physical infrastructure, civil disobedience of the future can take the form of clogging or actual interruption or destruction of fiber optic cables and ISDN lines by accessing electronic and communications infrastructure. Massive non-violent civil disobedience action has been used to shut down or suspend government or corporate operations. In the same way or reason, massive non-violent email assaults can obstruct or constrain government or corporate computer servers. At the current rate of expected and continued rapid growth and development of computer technology along with the increase of knowledge, sophistication and expertise of growing number of cyber-activists, no one can guess how far electronic civil disobedience can go in the future. What is certain is that electronic civil disobedience will be an essential element in the formation of new and radical social movements in the future. There already exist the theory and the practice of electronic civil disobedience and the government and corporations are aware of the potential threat posed by sophisticated cyber-activism.

Civil disobedience has now become more sophisticated with the emergence of the Critical Art Ensemble but the participation of street actions by real people is not seen as ending in the foreseeable future. Rather, many agree that electronic civil disobedience will more and more complement the traditional civil disobedience in the streets. They expect combined or hybrid civil disobedience actions, involving real people behind their computer screens while taking part in the traditional street demonstrations and other mass actions. Taking off from the direction taken by resistance movements in the United State at present, trends indicate possibilities of resistance as increasingly occurring in cyberspace. This shows how civil disobedience has been an important of the history of political growth of, and change in, this country. Thoreau's initiative, as well as Gandhi's and Luther King's contributions, has gone a long way in influencing generations after theirs. The world stands at new crossroads where older forms of resistance and protest are undergoing modification. What is certain is that electronic civil disobedience will figure prominently in the 21st century (Wray 1996).


While Thoreau and other leading figures in the sphere of civil disobedience argue that individuals are morally justified in disobeying certain laws, the observation is that few will actually disobey (Suber 1999). These leaders view this docility in the majority as the greater threat to democracy than anarchy. Civil disobedience consists of deliberate actions by individuals meant to oppose or disobey unjust laws without violence or retaliation against the authorities or State (Suber 1999, Wikipedia 2005). American author Henry David Thoreau was the first civil protester, an individualist, who openly violated taxation laws of his time to oppose slavery and the Mexican War. By withdrawing to his own world in the woods near Walden Pond, he expressed that dissent. Other leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed the same protest and dissent by performing non-violent acts. Individual and popular but non-violent acts of protest have been noted in many other parts of the world and at different periods in history.

Advocates of civil disobedience maintain that a democracy draws its powers from free individuals, who can likewise withdraw that power by relinquishing the benefits they derive from the State without resorting to violence (Wikipedia 2005, Suber 1999, Maravillosa 2002). There have been arguments for and against this form of dissent and protest towards laws. On the other hand, electronic civil disobedience has been viewed as the newer, bigger and an unpredictable form of showing or expressing opposition to laws or government. Many predict that it is the looming complement of the traditional and familiar street demonstrations and protests in the 21st century (Wray 1996).


Maravillosa, S. (2002). On the Importance of Civil Disobedience. Doing Freedom Magazine.

Suber, P. (1999). Civil Disobedience. Philosophy of Law: an Encyclopedia: Garland Publications, Company. II 110-113.

Thoreau, HD (2001). Civil Disobedience. Berkeley Digital Library Sunsite.

Wikipedia. (2005). Civil Disobedience. Media Wiki.

Wray, S. (1996). On Electronic Civil Disobedience. 1998 Socialist Scholars Conference.[continue]

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