Domination and disobedience: Protest, coercion and the limits of an appeal to justice
journal contributionposted on 27.07.2021, 12:47 by Guy AitchisonGuy Aitchison
I offer a conceptual framework for assessing the normative legitimacy of coercive disobedience—involving threats, disruption, force, and deceit—by social movements. A standard liberal view is that while coercion may be required to resist authoritarian regimes, it is illegitimate in a democratic state since it conflicts with majority rule and mutual respect. In restricting disobedience to a form of moral persuasion, this perspective neglects how social power and material interests can distort the conditions for open, fair deliberation. I offer a principled defense of coercive disobedience, not only in repressive states but in plausibly democratic societies. I argue that coercion can be justified on democratic republican grounds as a means to collectively contest objectionable forms of political domination. The use of coercion can be justified as asurrogatetool of political action for those who lack effective participation rights; as aremedialtool to counteract the dominating influence of powerful actors over the process of democratic will formation, and as amobilizationaltool to maintain participation and discipline in collective action. I conclude by proposing democratic constraints on the use of coercive tactics designed to offset the potential movements themselves become a source of arbitrary power.
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Politics and International Studies