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What Makes a Society Just?

The concept of a just society is rather an abstract concept than the concept that has ever been implemented in the real life. In the history of the mankind, it is impossible to find a society which could be defined as just. At the same time, people always strived for justice and the just society was the ultimate goal of many political and philosophical movements. In the 20th century, the civil disobedience concept was shaped as the efficient and just method of the struggle of oppressed people to re-establish justice in the society and to make the society just.

However, the concept of civil disobedience as means of the creation of a just society is highly controversial and has both opponents and proponents. The supporters of this concept (Coopers and Lybrand, 1997, p.210) argue that civil disobedience is a logical response of citizens to action or inaction of the state and law enforcement agencies, while its critics (Albertson, 1999, p.167) totally deny it.

Firstly, critics of the concept of civil disobedience argue that civil disobedience undermines the existing social order and the concept of the supremacy of the law. Secondly, opponents of civil disobedience argue that disobedient people are disrespectful of the principle of majority rule.

In this regard, it is important to remember about the dualism of law (Ardent, 1972, p.53). In actuality, this means that existing laws are not only imperfect, but they cannot ensure the equality of all citizens and, what is more, they cannot ensure the equality of all laws. As a result, Hannah Ardent argues that there are higher, supreme laws and inferior laws (Ardent, 1972, p.53). Such a hierarchy of laws is very important factor which influences consistently civil disobedience because people cannot fully exercise their rights and liberties as long as there is a dualism of laws and there are higher laws.

In response to the criticism of civil disobedience as an act violating the principle of majority rule, it is possible to argue that disobedience is not an act of one individual only. According to Hannah Ardent, disobedience is a group action (1972, p.54) that means that people are united by some idea or goal which make them disobedient. At this point, it is important to distinguish civil disobedients from conscientious objectors. Therefore, civil disobedients always have their common opinion which unite them and make them oppose and disobey to the existing laws (Ardent, 1972, p.56).

At the same time, it is important to remember that the civil disobedience is not a direct challenge to the law and the existing social order; neither it is the challenge to the majority of the population. The reason and primary cause of the growing disobedience is the loss of governmental authority which contributes to the growing doubts of people about governmental legitimacy. For instance, law enforcement agencies cannot cope with such important problems as drug trafficking and other crimes.

As a result, the authority of the state is totally undermined that raises mass disobedience, which does actually imply the violation of laws. In fact, it is rather an indication of a significant loss of the law’s authority. Moreover civilian disobedience can arise only when a significant number of citizens have become convinced in ineffectiveness of law and when law opposes to moral norms of people.



Ardent, H. (1972). Crises of the Republic. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
Albertson, S. (1999). World Economy. Ottawa: Kingston Books.
Coopers, G. and Lybrand, M. (1997). Generating Economic Growth through Young Technology Companies. New York: New Publishers.
Danaher, C. (1999). Seven Arguments for Reforming World Economy. London: Routeledge.
Russell, G. (2004). Modern Philosophy and Society. New York: Random House.

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