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Civil disobedience; Political obligation


The problems of political obligation and civil disobedience have recently been reemphasized in the civil rights struggle, in student demonstrations of various kinds, and in direct act ion connected with the peace movement. At the same time, men like the late President Kennedy have seemed to say that deliberate disobedience of law could never be countenanced.

In the light of controversies such as these, the present paper explores the disquietude about 'legitimacy of political rule in the Western political tradition; restates and evaluates several of the views that seek to give an account of political obligation; and formulates a possible way of viewing obligation and the conditions under which civil disobedience might be both a right and a duty. No historical political system, the paper argues, has ever been completely legitimate, so that under certain circumstances the possibility, right, and obligation of civil disobedience must be understood to be open.

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