Civil Disobedience E-Text contains the full text of Civil Disobedience
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Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”
So much has been written on Thoreau’s landmark essay on "Civil Disobedience." Indeed, it has been used as a model for modern day leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma GandHi. Andrew Trask states, "It is important to remember that Dr. King viewed civil disobedience only as one part of a larger program of reform." He continues, "There are elements of Dr. King's "direct action" of civil disobedience that we must consider: "pure" nonviolence, pragmatic action, and finally, the difference between just and unjust laws." These ideas are clearly Thoreauvian in nature. Furthermore, Gandhi advocated the use of civility at all times—“the civil register”, which extols respect for the opposition and behavior out of understanding rather than anger. And like Thoreau, Gandhi was constantly seeking the higher truth with regard to man’s relationship in the universe. Although these men were the most famous followers of Thoreau’s ideals, this essay had more wide reaching political an!
d social impact than most people understand. The Danish resistance (1940’s) used his theory in Occupied Denmark, in 1950's America it was adhered to by stringent opponents to McCarthyism. In the 1960's it was a means of using passive resistance to create pressure for overturning the laws and customs of racial Segregation and in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. And in the 1970's, it was unearthed by a new generation of anti-war activists. However, it is interesting to note that not all modern day critics agree with Thoreau’s determination towards mass nonviolence. James Goodwin writes: “Although Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., credited Thoreau as an inspiration to their mass campaigns of passive resistance, in crucial instances his thought appears to be more closely aligned to a doctrine of individual nihilism than to the philosophy of mass nonviolence. One such instance is co...
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