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Ethics of Disobedience

In this paper, Rajgopal Saikumar examines civil disobedience as a form of resistance to power in contemporary India. At the very core of a theory of civil disobedience lie two questions: first, what is the nature of our political obligation towards the law and the state and, second, what is the relation between law and morality? At what point is disobedience justified on the grounds of morality?

The study begins with a critical reading of eminent philosopher John Rawls’ justification of civil disobedience as argued in his book, A Theory of Justice. Rajgopal is critical of the Rawlsian conception of the Self, which is abstract and atomistic. Instead, a move towards a theory of civil disobedience, which is based on experience as conscience, is suggested. The experience of this embodied self, in its life world, provides the grounding for this rethinking of civil disobedience. Rajgopal analyses this rethinking of civil disobedience based on two case studies.

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