Democracy, Deliberation and Disobedience

William Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper develops a theory of civil disobedience informed by a deliberative conception of democracy. In particular, it explores the justification of illegal, public and political acts of protest in constitutional deliberative democracies. Civil disobedience becomes justifiable when processes of public deliberation fail to respect the principles of a deliberative democracy in the following three ways: when deliberation is insufficiently inclusive; when it is manipulated by powerful participants; and when it is insufficiently informed. As a contribution to ongoing processes of public deliberation, civil disobedience should be carried out in a way that respects the principles of deliberative democracy, which entails a commitment to persuasive, non-violent forms of protest.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)353-377
    Number of pages25
    JournalRes Publica
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • Civil disobedience
    • Contestation
    • Deliberative democracy
    • Justification
    • Non-violence


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