Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Civil Disobedience” as Want to Read:
Civil Disobedience
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

Civil Disobedience

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  10,466 ratings  ·  591 reviews
Kindle Edition, 33 pages
Published May 17th 2012 by Public Domain Books (first published 1849)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,466 ratings  ·  591 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Civil Disobedience
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 known.”
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...
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
Luís C.
Civil Desobedience

Henry David Thoreau wrote the essay Civil Disobedience to show his opposition to slavery and American imperialism. His essay has influenced many prominent civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience or Resistance to Civil Government, published in 1849, is a call to arms similar to the stances that people like Parks and King would later take. Thoreau argued that people owed it to themselves and their fellow man not to blindly
Dany Burns
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 ...more
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
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to my life Mr. Thoreau, I wish we had met sooner.
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
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.
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.
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.
Melania 🍒

• Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge - 20. A book written in prison •
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 the
A.D. Crystal
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well, one may agree or disagree with Thoreau's views on the State and the government role in society.
One cannot, though, not pay tribute to his extraordinarily sharpened awareness of the call for submission the institutions of the State and the government exercise to the citizens of a country.
I do not know of many a wo/men who make such conscientious efforts of getting to the marrow of one of the most essential relationships holding modern human beings together and most
Jacq Jardin
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think I would enjoy reading this. I did, though, and I'm sure glad I picked it up. Written in a very articulate manner, the paper is enjoyable, convincing, inspiring and stimulating all at once. Thoreau's strong moral convictions and high respect for the individual are evident in each line. Some of my favorites are:

"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

"The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, non-fiction
Interesting, but it didn't engross me in the way I hoped it would. The only passage I highlighted was "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. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor, which even would not think it ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nothing new under the sun. As good a read when first published as today.

Not saying Mr. Thoreau has all the answers or even the best kind of answers. In today's political climate, it is important to stretch back to those who "been there, done that." Thoreau influenced many greats such as Martin Luther King Jr.
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
well this was basically a guide on how to stand up for what you believe even if that means going to jail for it. tho it was a practical side of Emerson's ideas, I preferred Emerson. his language was more pleasant.
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thoreau
This is good to read during a divisive election year.
Sep 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
(This is a long post which can also be found here:

I had meant to read up on Thoreau for quite some time now, and took the opportunity yesterday to read the Project Gutenberg text of Civil Disobedience on my Kindle. I found the essay well-conceived, enjoyable, and dripping with an arrogance that only comes with a supreme confidence in one’s intellect, moral standing, and social status. That said, while I was impressed by Thoreau’s well-articulated respect
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The quasi-libertarian in me rather liked parts of this essay. The realist in me thought Thoreau was an arrogant idealist who thought the world revolved around him and thought his was the only opinion that could possibly be correct. He was also like, “Hey, I spent ONE night in the county jail for not paying a poll tax; therefore, I am awesome and qualified to write about disobeying a government I don’t like (on personal grounds, mind you, not necessarily on moral ones).”

Within the first few
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: On The Duty of Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau 1 8 Oct 01, 2018 11:28AM  
Highlights 1 5 May 26, 2017 08:59AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Self-Reliance
  • Nature
  • On Authority
  • The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
  • Rip Van Winkle
  • Common Sense
  • Los 53 Sutras de Buda
  • The Simple Case for Going Vegan
  • Political Ideals
  • Bartleby the Scrivener
  • The Birthmark
  • La Morale anarchiste
  • The Minister's Black Veil
  • Song of Myself
  • Il fascismo eterno
  • An Introduction to Metaphysics
  • The American Scholar; Self-Reliance. Compensation
  • The Communist Manifesto
See similar books…
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.

“I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.” 1033 likes
“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.” 228 likes
More quotes…