How far are you willing to go to enact the social change you want to see? What actions are you willing to take? What actions are you ethically uncomfortable with?
John Rawls defines civil disobedience as “a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies” (Rawls, 1971). Civil disobedience can include law-breaking protests, sit-ins, strikes, boycotts, and rallies among many other actions and has been used in social movements and organizing efforts across the world.
In every organizing movement, no matter how small, organizers and activists must make difficult decisions about the use of tactics and actions in their organizing efforts. Organizers must think about how far they are willing to go to enact social change from both an ethical and tactical standpoint. Will they participate in non-violent actions? Will they engage in violent actions? Solely legal actions? Illegal ones? It is essential that anyone who participates in organizing efforts and actions examine their own ethics, values, comfort, and limits in organizing – not just organizers.
In this Civic Café, we will discuss questions such as:
- How far are you willing to go to enact the social change you want to see?
- What actions are you willing to take?
- What actions are you ethically opposed to or uncomfortable with?
- Do you believe violence is ever justified in organizing efforts?
- What is the difference between crime and harm, and how does that affect your stance on civil disobedience?
On March 7, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., the Gephardt Institute is hosting a Democracy Dinner event focused on discussing civil disobedience and ethics in organizing actions. Join Dr. Gregory Magarian and other Washington University faculty and staff, and students to discuss this topic.
Civic Cafe is a weekly event series that occurs every Tuesday evening at Stix House, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Each night fits the theme of either a Skill Building session, Democracy Dinner, or Civic Storytelling event. Students of every level and discipline are invited to attend. Learn, eat, and meet other civically-minded individuals.
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