Civil Disobedience and Change Essay

1052 Words5 Pages
How has civil disobedience been used to engender change?

The human race has a long history of disobedience, beginning in the early biblical texts with the story of Adam and Eve. There are also many examples of civil disobedience the permeate known human history that include various forms of civil disobedience, including mass exodus, boycott, strike, non-cooperation and conscientious objection. Henry David Thoreau was a pioneer of modern civil disobedience when he refused to pay a poll tax because he believed the money would be used to fund the Mexican War. As a result he was arrested and spent a night in jail and was released when a relative paid his tax. His night in jail resulted in his penning of the seminal literary work,
…show more content…
In the case of the civil rights movement, the specific reform envisioned by the actors was an end to segregation. Non-violent, civil disobedience was utilized as an organized system of pressure applied to the politicians attempting to maintain the status quo. The acts of disobedience were targeted as a deliberate campaign to create change, by forcing the political and legal system to respond and by educating the majority about the inequities of the existing system. "A charming myth has risen about Parks as the seamstress who was simply too tired to move to the back of the bus and whose arrest set off a spontaneous demonstration that ended happily with integrated bus service. Such an account misrepresents a carefully planned and well- organized movement for social change (Moss & Thomas, 2010, pg. 84)."

Civil disobedience acts as a force for evolutionary change in government and relieves the pressure that might otherwise create a need for revolutionary change. "In effect, in a democracy, apart from internal channels of expression of will -- the right to vote, strikes, demonstrations -- there is civil disobedience, a final stabilising mechanism functioning at once inside and outside of the system, actiing as a safety valve or social conflict, in that pressure-cooker which, in difficult times, is society (Tella, 2004, pg. 65)."

How effective is a nonviolent approach?

There are a number of barriers to being able to measure and
Get Access