Civil Disobedience
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Civil Disobedience

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,979 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Originally published in 1849 as "Resistance to Civil Government," Thoreau's classic essay on resistance to the laws and acts of government that he considered unjust was largely ignored until the Twentieth Century when Mohandas Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and anti-Vietnam War activists applied Thoreau's principles.
Hardcover, 36 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Applewood Books (first published January 1st 1963)
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Rachel
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...more
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...more
Mike
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
Alberto
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...more
Amy
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...more
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...more
Silas
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
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.

Matthew
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...more
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
Vichy
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...more
Juliet
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...more
Grigory
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.
Ramon
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.
Christopher
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...more
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.
Eric
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
Jim
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
Coraline
explique l'utilité de la désobéissance civile après qu'il ait passé une nuit en prison pour ne pas avoir payé ses taxes à l'état du Massachussets qui soutenait l'esclavage et avait envoyé des hommes dans la guerre du Mexique.
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
What a man.! I couldn't help admiring the courage in his words. To believe in something and stand with all might for it. That is something rarely found in this world of ours. This book is a must-read for all those who want to understand the world in a better way. If words could hurt systems,this one is an Armageddon. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Aaron Van Fleet
Interesting read in the light of current events (2014). Thoroughly enjoyed this brief text which inspired me to reconsider my country and my own allegiances.
Josh
Principled and well-reasoned, if a bit verbose.
Elise Straub
One of the books that helped shape the U.S.
Emily
I think I would understand this better if I knew the context better. The abolition of slavery I obvious, but I don't know enough about the conflicts with Mexico to know what he's getting at there.

"The government is best which governs least" is a sound principle that especially reverberates in 2012; however, a glance at the comment section of any news website should be enough to convince one that the world is overrun with idiots and jackasses, so that the corollary Thoreau suggests "That governme...more
Todd
Mar 18, 2008 Todd rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone.
I actually read the e- book first, then have read the copy in my little portable Thoreau a few times since.

A remarkable essay that brings into focus the lack of balance there is between government and personal freedom. It's the foundation on Gandhi's non- violent movement, who thereby influenced MLK. The idea of simply 'withdrawing support' from a corrupt or illegitimate system has stuck with me, as has his blunt re- alignment of what seems to be an accepted social paradigm. I think this should...more
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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
More about Henry David Thoreau...
Walden Walden & Civil Disobedience Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Collected Essays) Thoughts from Walden Pond A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers/Walden/The Maine Woods/Cape Cod (Library of America #28)

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“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.” 127 likes
“Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.” 27 likes
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