Reframing civil disobedience as a communicative action Toward a critical deliberative theory of civil disobedience

Atilgan H.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIAL POLICY, vol.40, no.1-2, pp.169-183, 2020 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 40 Issue: 1-2
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1108/ijssp-06-2019-0127
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, ABI/INFORM, Criminal Justice Abstracts, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.169-183
  • Keywords: Social policy, Political sociology, Activism, Civil society, Social movements, JUSTICE, DEMOCRACY, VIOLENT
  • Eskisehir Osmangazi University Affiliated: No


Purpose Civil disobedience is often defined as a public, conscientious, nonviolent act of breaking the law in an attempt to change an unjust policy or law. When applied to real-life situations, this widely accepted definition overlooks key features of civil disobedience and ignores civil acts that fundamentally challenge undemocratic institutions or the state and make socio-political changes possible. The purpose of this paper is to criticize and revise the conceptual, ethical and socio-political understandings of civil disobedience by integrating deliberative theory with some radical perspectives on civil disobedience. Design/methodology/approach This paper integrates and critically revises previous approaches to the justification and role of civil disobedience in democratic systems. Specifically, the ethical concerns about civil disobedience are discussed and the deliberative concept of civil disobedience is expanded as a form of political contestation by incorporating the socio-political aspects of civil disobedience. Although it is a conceptual discussion, the paper opted for an exploratory approach using empirically related examples to illustrate the theoretical discussion. Findings The paper provides a new perspective to the literature on civil disobedience. The critical review shows that the limited general understanding of civil disobedience conceptually is not useful to analyze various forms of civil disobedience.