Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” as Want to Read:
On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read book* *Different edition

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  2,813 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Civil Disobedience argues that citizens should not permit their governments to overrule their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing their acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican-American War, but the sentiments he expresses here are just as perti ...more
ebook, 24 pages
Published March 14th 2013 by Start Publishing LLC (first published January 1st 1849)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Well, I'm still pondering what I think about this essay, so I'm not quite sure what I'd like to say about it yet. It is different than what I expected. I always thought of Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" as the work that inspired non-violent protests like 1960s sit-ins and Ghandi's hunger strikes--and it IS an inspiration, but it is not about those types of actions, as far as I can tell.

Thoreau, rather, suggests that people should just withdraw from an unjust government (and this, to Thoreau inc
Riku Sayuj
Was a wonderful experience to read it in parallel with The Prince.
Robert Beveridge
Apr 27, 2012 Robert Beveridge rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every American
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience (CreateSpace, 1849)

I have put off releasing my best reads of 2011 list for all these months because I still haven't quite figured out how to review Civil Disobedience, which is #3 on it. You see, the problem is I've always kind of hated Thoreau, who is widely held responsible for the foundation of the modern ecological movment (I'm a diehard pave-the-earth guy and have been for decades). Because of that, I spent my reading time avoiding the guy, but when I
This essay, none the less, was great. However, I do not see how will the lives of a community work out peacefully when everyone has a range from slightly different to opposite virtues. Someone may say it's possible when people respect each other, but I say different. If we think piratical, people are full of hubris and selfishness. In schools, where respect is a statute, they had to force this concept in to the minds of the students because they knew every one of them did not learn to be respec ...more
For future references:
Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849. In it, Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican–American War.
By: htt
Five stars for the importance of the topic Thoreau discusses; one star because his answer is absurdly wrong (and simplistic).

I know that this is supposed to be a classic, and even Gandhi cited it as inspiration. My opinion is, unfortunately, quite different. Civil Disobedience amounts to a tract in favor of anarchism. Some choice quotes...
That government is best which governs not at all.

[The state's] very Constitution is the evil.

Beyond the high-flying rhetoric, let's look at his more reasoned a
My students and I were talking in class about how Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were both influenced by Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" essay. The question arose in class as to whether there might be a person alive now that would have a dynamic personality and ability to speak out for racial discrimination beyond the black and white problem. 2 of my students are Hispanic and are constantly looked down upon as if they must be an illegal immigrant because of their accent and the color ...more
Some fairly specious reasoning in here. It is lovely that Thoreau has become a symbol of all that is right with the world, but I am reviewing the text, not him.

The first part of the text is argument, the middle is an account of his night in jail, and the final third is commentary related to his first argument.

The first argument, which he admits in the third part of the text, does not distinguish between material and formal cooperation in evil.

"It is for no particular item in the tax-bill that
Hamid Qureshi
Haven't had the chance to read all of the gathered essay's but as the title of the book Civil Disobedience is an essay which i have had the pleasure of reading i feel i am qualified, if but marginally, to voice an opinion regarding it.
Brilliant take on consciousness and morality and how the reality of the two relate to the State during his time. Is morality in what the majority of people choose is moral. what if the options are manipulated and immorality is disguised for morality? He also makes
Courtney Williams
The book: Civil Disobedience

The author: Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet, philosopher, polymath, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist. (Phew.)

The subject: Thoreau's argument for refusing to participate in unjust governments and how to avoid kowtowing to it.

Why I chose it: I read "Walden" and enjoyed it, plus I couldn't resist the title and the fact that this book influenced Gandhi (who then influenced Martin Luth
This was an interesting thought experiment, and an artifact of a different time. I can see how it was inspirational for modern incarnations of civil disobedience, but it definitely represents a way that would be unlikely to work the same way if attempted in the modern world. I found it interesting how much this essay focused on withholding tax payments as a way of protesting certain government acts with which one disagreed (in Thoreau's case, with slavery and the Mexican-American war, but he als ...more
Mohammad Ali
متن خود نافرمانی مدنی و همچنین افزوده های این جزوه ی الکترونیکی بسیار جالب و جذاب بودند. البته برای من بیشتر از نفس این اثر و رویکردهاش، زندگی شخص ثورو و عملکردهاش جالب و گیرا بودند. باید اذعان کرد که افزوده ها واقعا بجا و مناسبند.

در مورد ترجمه باید متاسفانه اذعان کرد که ترجمه ی اصل مقاله ی نافرمانی مدنی متوسط و گاهی زیر متوسط است - البته اصل مقاله هم ابهاماتی دارد و من چند جایی که به آن مراجعه کردم مشکلی برایم حل نشد و جملات گرچه به نحو لغوی فهم می شدند اما منظور نویسنده گنگ باقی می ماند. در مو
Abdul-rahman Nofal
While he addresses very important issues as corruption, the expanding of government power, the importance of morality and standing by your beliefs, Henry David Thoreau gives very simplistic and unrealistic solutions to the problems he stated.

Unlike some other political writings of the same era, this is still relevant today.
As much as I wanted to love this, it came across as a tea party manifesto. :(
While listening to this on audio book, I found myself filtering Thoreau's statements through my own modern political stovepipes...ready to dismiss Thoreau outright as a naive militia Libertarian and/or hype him up as some sort of Uber-Liberal.

This says more of the divisive nature of modern political discourse than to the real, sincere, legitimate points Thoreau laid out in this treatise, really more of a tract, on the role of Government and the individual.

At turns seeming to advocate Libertarian
Dimitris Hall
My small review for this book was lost; Goodreads shamelessly told me, after I had clicked save, that my review didn't exist. Well, it existed up to the point you told me it didn't exist anymore -- which must had been true at that specific point in time, even if as a fact by itself it can't explain the reason it did not exist anymore. Anyway, before I go on in stranger circles of logic, I'll just say that the reason I'm giving this one two stars is because I read it/listened to it at the very sa ...more
For some reason I thought this would be more explorative than it is subjective. However in as much as it presents one man’s thoughts and experience relating to one state, the arguments put make perfect, reasoned sense.

Thoreau’s thoughts are as relevant today as in his day and to any state. The statement that leapt out to me – “A very few—as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men—serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part
Ricardo Rodríguez-Quintero
«Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.»
Bruce Gumbert
Jan 24, 2015 Bruce Gumbert rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone concerned about politics today
With what is going on today with our government anyone who is concerned should read this. This is a must read for anyone who is concerned about the excesses of government. I wish I had read this years ago like I did Walden. The references to current events is dated but accurate for the time frame it was written in. What he stated then is even more true today.
Good stuff.

Nice quote:
all machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer.
I attempted to read this to my children, who were all to happy for it to be over. What I hoped was to inspire in them some ideals on freedom and responsibility. As it turns out, Thoreau's Classic got me thinking about life, freedom, responsibility, and duties of the state. This work is all too relevant today, in a country where the state is ever expanding and our duty to disobey grows daily.
Okay, I enjoyed The Scarlet Letter. I really did. Transcendentalism is interesting, I'll give it that. But, and this is a major but, Thoreau needed an editor and a program with word count. Almost everyone in my class (including me) could not finish Civil Disobedience. It was so intimidating long and hopelessly dry even I skimmed it. The bones of it are good when Thoreau stays on point, but so many gems get lost in the muck.

I can't wait to watch Dead Poets Society in Major American Authors, and
I have a difficult time swallowing the full consequences of anarchists/individualists system of society. They take the idea of man must be free, the power and importance of the individual. He even goes to far in saying that a majority of one is still a majority. What a twisted concept.

However, Thoreau is the author of Walden, he did live it on his own, without government. He lived what he preached. Yet, unless society as a whole builds their own meager cabins in the woods, government is a neces
Brandon Dalo
Having just finished Walden, I felt it was time to also read Henry David Thoreau's other major work here. So much shorter than Walden, I read this essay in one sitting. I don't feel that there is a need for me to summarize its plot; most know it already, even if they have not read it. As in Walden, I agreed with most of his philosophies he put forth here, only these were in regard to serving (or not serving) an unjust government.
Ahmad Nazeri
"There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the States comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority is derived, and treats him accordingly."

The government should treat individuals better and the individuals should not allow laws define them and their values.
Sean Wylie
Mr. Thoreau is like many thinkers that frustrate me. They pour rivers of ink into describing why a system is wrong/broken without putting in the thought to propose a viable alternative.
Thoreau seems to argue that the US government of his time needs reform, until which is done he as a US citizen has a right to disobey them.
I found this work interesting but not enjoyable.
Billie Pritchett
Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" was a fun little read but not what I expected. This is a work I had heard inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Somehow I expected it to be a cogent essay on opposing government through nonviolent resistance when government is unjust, or something along those lines. Instead, Thoreau meanders around his topic with about the most in the way of practical application of the kind of civil disobedience he would like to share being an anecdote abo ...more
Written by a person of great moral integrity, this book is about commitment to principle, and is an inspiration to moral action. I have pulled two favorite quotes from here. First is from the opening paragraph where he takes a little twist on the line so often mistakenly attributed to Jefferson, "That government is best which governs not at all". The second one is a recognition of the injustice of government laws, and a nod to higher principles when he says, "It is not desirable to cultivate a r ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Ayn Rand Reader
  • The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates
  • Nature
  • In the Cage
  • The Statesman (Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism
  • The Life of Buddha and Its Lessons
  • On Liberty and Utilitarianism
  • The Will to Believe, Human Immortality, and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy
  • Common Sense
  • Essays, First Series
  • Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings
  • The Ethics of Liberty
  • Mythmakers and Lawbreakers: Anarchist Writers on Fiction
  • The Complete Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • How To Speak And Write Correctly
  • On Disobedience and Other Essays
  • Love-Lies-Bleeding
Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau)was an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, philosopher, and abolitionist who is best known for Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.

Thoreau's books,
More about Henry David Thoreau...
Walden Walden & Civil Disobedience Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Collected Essays) Walking Thoughts from Walden Pond

Share This Book

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” 149 likes
“Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.” 28 likes
More quotes…