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Confronting InjusticeMoral History and Political Theory$
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David Lyons

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199662555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199662555.001.0001

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Normal Law, Nearly Just Societies, and Other Myths of Legal Theory 1

Normal Law, Nearly Just Societies, and Other Myths of Legal Theory 1

(p.112) 6 Normal Law, Nearly Just Societies, and Other Myths of Legal Theory1
Confronting Injustice

David Lyons

Oxford University Press

Most philosophical work on civil disobedience assumes that peaceful, conscientious but unlawful protest against unjust law requires moral justification, because of a comprehensive moral obligation to obey the law, and that practitioners of civil disobedience agree because they regard the prevailing systems as “reasonably just.” By examining the views of the most respected and articulate practitioners of civil disobedience and the circumstances of their political activities, this paper argues that the assumptions of the literature are seriously mistaken and differ from the views of Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who expressed eminently reasonable, radical criticism of their respective societies, dominated as the latter were by, respectively, chattel slavery, brutally oppressive colonial rule, and Jim Crow. The paper ends with reflections on the moral myopia of the civil disobedience literature.

Keywords:   legal theory, legal theorists, political obligation, legal obligation, injustice, political history

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