Rowman and Littlefield International

Civil Disobedience

A Philosophical Overview

By Piero Moraro

6 Reviews

This book shows how the notion of civil disobedience has evolved.

Hardback ISBN: 9781786607164 Release date: Jul 2019
£80.00 €112.00 $120.00
Ebook ISBN: 9781786607171 Release date: Jul 2019
£24.95 €34.95 $38.00
Paperback ISBN: 9781786607188 Release date: Jul 2019
£24.95 €34.95 $39.95

Pages: 180


What is the difference between civil and uncivil disobedience? How can illegal protest be compatible with a democratic regime based on the rule of law? Is Edward Snowden a civil disobedient? This book follows the philosophical debate around these and other issues, showing how the notion of civil disobedience has evolved from a form of passive resistance against injustice, to an active way to engage with the political life of the community. The author presents the major contributions in political and legal philosophy, ranging from John Rawls’ seminal account in 1971, to the recent views advanced by Kimberley Brownlee, David Lefkowitz and William Smith. In the last chapter, the author proposes a novel account of civil disobedience, able to meet some of the unresolved challenges. The author argues that, to make sense of civil disobedience, we should expand our conception of political obligation, so to include acts that, despite being illegal, may reveal the agent’s civility.


Chapter 1. What’s Wrong with Disobedience?

Chapter 2. The Concept of Civility

Chapter 3. Disagreement and Civility

Chapter 4. Nonviolence and Civility

Chapter 5. The Moral Right to Civil Disobedience

Chapter 6. Political Obligation: ‘Inside-Out’ Vs. ‘Outside-In’

Piero Moraro is a lecturer in Justice Studies at Charles Sturt University.

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6 Reviews

This book focuses on the discussion of civil disobedience among philosophy professors over the past 20 or so years. . . Moraro believes his own contribution is to emphasize the display of civility by the disobedient actor: the heart of his discussion is to connect justifiable civil disobedience to respect for others’ autonomy, “a respect due to their status … as self-legislators,” who have the “capacity” to choose their “own ends in life” with a right that these choices be respected. . . this is a thoughtful and competent book.

Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


There has been a quiet renaissance in the philosophy of civil disobedience. Moraro offers a masterful survey of the emerging debates, showing how a new generation of political theorists is grappling with challenges posed by a new generation of political protesters. This is a superb primer for anyone wishing to understand civil disobedience in the twenty-first century.

William James Clark Smith, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Chinese University of Hong Kong

There is much to admire in this book. In addition to providing a much needed introduction to the most recent philosophical discussion of civil disobedience, Moraro outlines an original account that grounds the value of this practice in certain aspects of virtue ethics. Moraro succeeds in appealing both to students and more experienced readers by discussing complex problems while writing in an accessible and engaging style. Highly recommended.

Massimo Renzo, Professor of Politics, Philosophy and Law, King's College London

Piero Moraro’s book provides a useful and analytically clear introduction to the philosophical literature on political obligation and civil disobedience. By emphasizing agents’ moral dispositions rather than their acts, Moraro defends a nuanced virtue-ethical account of the duty to respect the law, which citizens may sometimes satisfy by engaging in civil disobedience.

Candice Delmas, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Political Science, Northeastern University

An impressive achievement: at once an expert and concise overview of decades of philosophical discussion about the nature of both political obligation and civil disobedience, as well as a development of Moraro’s own distinctive views. Essential reading, as both an accessible introduction and substantial and original contribution to the debate.

Michael Sevel, Senior Lecturer in Jurisprudence, University of Sydney Law School

In this thoughtful and engaging investigation of the philosophy on civil disobedience, Piero Moraro weaves together recent advancements in the literature, canonical treatments, and his own illuminating take on civil disobedience as a matter of virtue and not just rights and duties. The work not only provides an excellent overview and analysis, but shows clearly why civil disobedience has re-emerged as an important topic for debate.

Kimberley Brownlee, Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick

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