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Civil Disobedience

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  13,575 ratings  ·  842 reviews
Resistance to Civil Government, called Civil Disobedience for short, 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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 33 pages
Published May 17th 2012 by Public Domain Books (first published 1849)
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 ·  13,575 ratings  ·  842 reviews


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Bill Kerwin

I chose Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience as my 2018 Fourth of July read, figuring I could write something quick and easy, something about the Resistance, Generalissimo Trump, and the coming Blue Wave. Yada yada yada. Something inspiring and comforting.

But it didn’t work out that way.

I found Thoreau’s personality prickly, many of his pronouncements naive and uncongenial. I don't deny that his essay is morally challenging, and that it is also stylistically rich, filled with dozens of memorable
...more
James
Book Review
I read this nearly twenty years ago in a college course. I recently found my notes and listed a few below, so this isn’t a typical review you’ve seen from me.
My reaction to this work is pretty complicated. It had some thought-invoking ideas, but it was boring from a readability perspective. I am not one to be political or make statements without having all the facts. Everything contained in this work was important and definitely had meaning, but it seemed so “already kno
...more
Sara
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant essay by Henry David Thoreau, and proof that the struggle to define the American destiny has been going on since its inception.

This American government--what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity?

Thoreau was deeply aggrieved of the American government and its politicians, who were dancing about the issue of slavery. He states, and rightfully so, that a moral issue such as this
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Chris_P
Or how to not let yourself be manipulated by any kind of authority.An essay that states some of the basic ideas of being a human being, the way I see it. It should be taught in schools.

The progress from a total to a restricted monarchy, and from a restricted monarchy to democracy, is a progress toward real respect for the individual. However, is democracy, as we know it, the last possible improvement of governing?

I wonder what he'd say if he saw what we define as democracy today...
...more
Kath ❅
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
This is a very interesting read. Though the language can seem a bit old and hard to get through and understand the message is important and rings out loud and clear. Many people are content to sit around and wait for the right thing to happen but in order for the right the to happen there must be action. If laws are unjust it is your duty to break those laws. So many people forget the actions of the founders of the US were treasonous. Sometime the only way to stand up for what is right is to wor ...more
Rachel
Oct 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Gandhi'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
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Was a wonderful experience to read it in parallel with The Prince. ...more
HajarRead
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to my life Mr. Thoreau, I wish we had met sooner.
Daniel Clausen
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-of-2019
The safest investments are in old friends and old books. Friends, books, and wine get better with age.
This short essay -- the inspiration for so much nonviolent resistance in the world -- still has the ability to challenge, even as its language delights. The essay seemed less philosophical this time around, more problematic. (I would guess this is my third time reading it).

Like much of Thoreau's writing, it is deeply personal, written in a reflective manner, rather than a purely logical one. I
...more
Tristram Shandy
“Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man's real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now.“

In my university days, I had to soldier on through Thoreau’s Walden, which was really a bit like fighting your way through a forest of transcendental, yet quite substantial trees, in order to arrive at a place where people speak a more intelligible language, and consequently, in the years followin
...more
Cynda
5 Stars--unequivocally Rocks my World.
Thoreau is sane and percipient. He knows what he thinks and expresses himself well.
Some example ideas I am so in agreement with. (I won't give it all away.)

1. We need a better government, not another revolution.
2. We need to take action on our beliefs/ideals.
3. Even when inconvenient, we need to do right.

Thoreau does speak of morals. In another era, Thoreau might have spoken of doing the right thing, of living in one's own skin, of karma.

I am in agreemen
...more
Jon Nakapalau
I have read excerpts from this essay over the years and have finally finished it. I wonder if there is a more timely book - truly the people need to take this book to heart if there is to be any hope of civility ever returning to America. Thoreau points out that passively accepting the political whims of leaders we become our own worst enemy; and once this happens we can only appeal to the state to remedy our own problems. A true classic that intersects so many social issues.
Paula W
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really sure how to review this. Something to come tomorrow maybe after I think about it for a bit. ...more
Stefania Dzhanamova
What matters most about Thoreau's essay is the complex relationship between text and action. The essay emerges from Thoreau's action, interprets that action, is read, and then turned back into action again by its readers. It mattered so much to the action of so many, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King,Jr., the African National Congress founder Trevor N. W. Bush, the Freedom Rider William Mahoney, a deliberately anonymous fighter in the Danish resistance etc. etc. among them. Ironically, judging ...more
Brad Lyerla
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this as an undergraduate. I am adding it to my list now because I just saw another GR friend's review and thought I should speak up.

ON THE DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE is Thoreau's seminal work. It is more important than ON WALDEN POND arguably and, therefore, is a must read. Reading it will take you only a few hours and you will be glad that you did.
...more
Melania 🍒
3.25|5

• Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge - 20. A book written in prison •
Belhor Crowley
Apr 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy
I might have liked this book ten years ago. Now it's just too basic. The ideas represented here seem so obvious, if of course, you believe what Thoreau says is the right way to do things. I don't believe his theory of individual civil disobedience would actually work in today's world.
What is more is that the book is written in such a dry manner that it almost takes all the joy out of reading it.
I'll never understand how this book got so many 5 star reviews.
...more
Naia Pard
He spent one day in jail and made an entire essay about it.
Kudos to him, but boy would he have had a difficult time living our times.
Instagram\\my Blog\\
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Jerry Jose
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?"

Even at the known risk of getting branded as a boring old uncle, I must admit into finding Thoreau's venerated essay fascinatingly metal. I was introduced into this magnum opus by Gandhi ,who during his non-violence movement, has undoubtedly elevated the duty of Civil Disobedience from individual consciousness to the ethics of a collective. (also freely available on internet).

In this ess
...more
Martha Sweeney
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Needed a break from editing and read Civil Disobedience for the first time. Loved it. It's a key piece of literature that I think everyone should read, not just in America, but all over the world concerning everything that is occurring in governments all across the world.

Peace - Love - Prosperity - Happiness to You and Everyone
...more
Patience K Phillips
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Listening to Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience for the first time thought as though I was hearing a non-partisan news report on what the heck has gone awry with America on all sides.

Why people, in general, are super stressed and how moral corruption would and does take over, and why.

This book is super similar to Walden with a spicy kick.

Borrowed from the library overdrive app. Also acquired a free copy online here. 👇🏼

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/th...

Thoreau’s grasp of humanity i
...more
Kate
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I was alternately impressed and annoyed with this essay. Thoreau made an excellent point about the Mexican War that still applies to the wars and interventions we're involved with today. His point was that a small group in our government decide these military endeavors, and the people themselves have no say in it.

Something that annoyed me was Thoreau gently criticising his friends as "summer weather only" because they wouldn't stand up to the State of Massachusetts out of fear of losing their pr
...more
Laura Sagués
The ideas he suggests are quite interesting and I agree with him in some parts (in the theoretical aspect, of course).
Still, some parts seemed to come out of the blue and I had the impression of gettiing lost the moment he skipped to the next paragraph in more than one occasion... I'd dare to say that it was as though as if he was rambling about and about.
Not as literary as I had expected it to be ksksj
...more
James
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would love to have met this man in person. What a brilliant wit and iron nerve to say what he did, when he did, and how he did, to whom he did. For the contemporary patriot who doesn't quite know where he stands, this work will test his devotion, and force an analysis of his political thinking. ...more
sara
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
the ideas presented are great but thoreau’s way of putting them into words is—in my opinion—awful. despite knowing what he was trying to convey I kept getting lost after each sentence, reading this was a nightmare.
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 reasone
...more
Jinx
Privileged White Boy Spends One Night Sulking in Jail, Emerges As Enlightened Intellectual Rebel Genius and Only Real Victim of Oppression
David Sarkies
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
War and Taxes
9 November 2017

It has taken me a few days to actually get around to writing a review on this treatise, not because I haven't wanted to but rather because life has somehow managed to get in the way, and also because I have been more interested in doing my calculus and basic computer programming (if one can consider HTML and CSS to be programming, not that I'm all that good with CSS, but it's good to know). Anyway, while I technically should be in bed now I think I'll just write this
...more
Kathleen
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

This seemed an appropriate time to read this daring essay about Thoreau’s disagreement with the actions of the government, and his belief that the majority is not always right. I understand why this inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. It sets out a simple, straight-forward argument for not going along with your government when it acts egregiously.

“Action from principle, the perceptio
...more
Babbs
Written before the civil war, the tension on ethics and rights of man are evident. Thoreau marks that a government is prone to corruption and it's the responsibility of the individual to speak out and protect the rights of all.
"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

This work, re-framed from an abolitionist's speech given by Thoreau has been referenced as inspiration by the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and though
...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.

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