A theoretical and practical analysis of the use of violence within contemporary civil disobedience

Selfe, David William (1989) A theoretical and practical analysis of the use of violence within contemporary civil disobedience. Masters thesis, Lancashire Polytechnic.

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The phenomenon of civil disobedience, or protest against governmental actions and policies, has a long and varied history. This thesis examines the theories behind, and practice of the concept within a contemporary setting, namely from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day. The central theme of the thesis is the extent to which violent actions may be regarded as justifiable means to be used within civil disobedience.
Chapter One examines the terminology and interpretation of the phrase 'civil disobedience' itself in order to understand fully the linguistic context within which the discussions will be developed.
Nonviolence is regarded most commonly as the sole, or at least primary demeanour to be adopted by civil disobedients. In Chapter Two this concept is considered from the point of view of both theorists and exponents of civil disobedience.
Particular attention is paid to those criteria usually regarded as essential prerequisites for nonviolence.
The concept of violence itself, within both a general political sense and within the narrower ambit of civil disobedience, is examined in Chapter Three, and this leads on to an analysis of the various arguments put forward for condemning the
use of violence in Chapter Four.
To counter those arguments, Chapter Five examines the leading theories which seek to provide some support or justification for the use of violent actions. One of the major criticisms levelled at contemporary civil disobedience, especially when violent methods are adopted, is that it has no place within modern 'Western democracies'. Consideration is given to the meaning of the conceptof 'democracy' in Chapter Six, and the jotential impact of available democratic pkocedures. for effectitig change are analysed.
Chapter Seven applies the preceding analysis to two contemporary instances of civil disobedience, at Greenham Common and in Toxteth. The extent to which these actions can be supported or should be denounced are considered in this
Chapter and in the Conclusion.

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