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Civil Disobedience

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Civil Disobedience Civil disobedience is almost akin to a taboo in our society, yet in its pure form - as taught by Thoreau and practiced by Gandhi - it is harmful to no-one. For my assignment I chose to break the social consensus that it is a good idea to obey authority; rather, it is wiser to question its shortcomings. To do so, I talked to people and raised questions with them. It was not my intention to incite law breaking, only to encourage freethinking. This was an informal norm to break, as I was no longer following the shared understandings I have with strangers. I shed the 'etiquette' I had been socialised with in favour of an 'alien' ideology. In practical terms this meant I was no longer taking any explanations for granted, an attitude firmly opposed to the conservatism I was expected to conform to. ...read more.


He held that I was lucky to live under a democracy, and that it was the best form of government. I pointed out that subjectivism and ethnocentrism spring from such confidence. He argued that the law had to be upheld, and I replied that it would be wiser, in the words of Thoreau, that "when men are ready" they should have rules based on conscience, and a government which "governs not at all." At this point he showed signs of disdain and left. This is an example of how individuals' ideas may be influenced by their achieved status. Soon afterwards, I passed a Socialist Worker stall, where I found my views accepted and supported. In an attempt to see what difference in reactions there would be if I were to dress the part, I donned a Che Guevara T-shirt and defaced Nike trainers, with a communist-made badge bearing the hammer and sickle. ...read more.


This was a demonstration of how small communities refuse to follow social norms; my attitudes would have been met with little opposition, and on the contrary would perhaps have been encouraged, in a rock venue. In the interactions, the symbols and sanctions displayed by the subjects in question demonstrate how well society's values had been internalised in them, an example of Bourdieu's 'Cultural Reproduction'. People generally acted on these traditions; their reactions were mostly not individual or especially contextualised. Here, we have an example of Marx's 'false consciousness' - people have been infused with an ideology. They are 'socially made', in the language of Durkheim. The value held by nearly all the people I encountered was one of acceptance of and respect for legitimate authority, to the point where it is considered useful enough to be worth defending. It appears this social norm is so deeply ingrained in the collective mind of society that it would need a lot of work to break down, if it could ever be done. ...read more.

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