Michal Kaczmarczyk: Civil(-izing) Disobedience: Four Traditions of Examined Contestation. [Abstract]

The aim of this article is to describe the institution of civil disobedience as a type of action that can be subsumed under the category of Norbert Elias’ “civilization.” The first thesis I aim to defend in my article claims a historical universality of civil disobedience, by which I mean that the most influential doctrines of law and lawmaking imply, more or less directly, the right to civil disobedience and a specific form of the latter. As far as the central ideas of law trigger distinct civilization processes, the twin forms of civil disobedience fulfill the same social function. This article will distinguish four such traditions of civil disobedience: religious, romantic, reformist, and democratic. My second, central thesis refers to the last tradition and claims that the democratic idea of civil disobedience focuses on law-breaking understood as a communicative use of the legal code. The very act of communication implies the existence of a communication recipient constituted by the whole population of citizens who are the public of the system of law. Furthermore, I argue that the pre-democratic traditions of civil disobedience provide the modern concept of civil disobedience with essential characteristics: transparency, ethical motivation, civility (proportionality), and nonviolence. Thus, my argumentation culminates in the insight that the basic definitional elements of civil disobedience constitute it as a form of civilization par excellence, although lawmakers and governments frequently condemn civil disobedience as a decivilized or decivilizing practice.

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