In Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau looks at old issues in new ways, asking: is there ever a time when individuals should actively oppose their government and its justice system?
After a thorough review of the evidence, Thoreau comes to the conclusion that opposition is legitimate whenever government actions or institutions are unacceptable to an individual’s conscience. What is particularly interesting is that Thoreau’s creative mind took him deeper into the argument, as he concluded that this legitimate opposition really wasn’t enough. In Thoreau’s opinion, anyone who believed something to be wrong had a duty to resist it actively.
These ideas were completely at odds with the prevailing opinions of the day – that it was the duty of every citizen to support the state. Thoreau connected ideas and notions in a novel manner and went against the tide, generating new hypotheses so that people could see matters in a new light. It is a mark of the success of his creative thinking that his views are now considered mainstream, and that his arguments are still deployed in defence of the principle of civil disobedience.
Table of Contents
Ways in to the text
Who was Henry David Thoraeu?
What does Civil Disobedience Say?
Why does Civil Disobedience Matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate Module
11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
Mano Toth is researching for a PhD in poltics at the University of Cambridge.
Dr Jason Xidias has held positions at King’s College London and the University of California, Berkeley.