The Moral Justification of Civil Disobedience in a Constitutional Democracy: An Appraisal of Rawls’ Notion of Civil Disobedience

  • Edward Uzoma Ezedike
  • Itelimo Morrison


The paper examined the moral implications of civil disobedience in a constitutional democracy, using John Rawls’ notion of civil disobedience as a conceptual framework. It deals with the moral problem of justifying a civil revolt against an unjust government in a democratic setting. The paper adopts the method of textual analysis and uses John Rawls seminal work, A Theory of Justice, as its primary text. In the sum, Rawlsian theory of justice is a mid-way between the liberal principle and egalitarian principle. To secure the human capacity for free choice and pursuit of common good, Rawls posits that we must accept the first principle of justice, which protects the equal liberties of citizenship as contained in the social contract. Although his ideas have attracted a lot of criticisms from both the right and left of the ideological spectrum, the paper thinks Rawls’ position makes a lot of moral sense. The objective of the paper is to defend, on moral grounds, the idea of civil disobedience when those in power become unjust and oppressive in relation to the social contract. It concluded with the view that the political class hold power and authority on trust and this makes it morally justifiable to resist the abuse of such powers since it contradicts the values of integrity, fairness and justice. Moreover, the equal dignity of human beings as moral persons dictates equal liberty and freedom of action that negates the arrogation of powers by a select State official who are in minority.

Key Words: moral, justification, justice, civil disobedience, democracy


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2070-0083
print ISSN: 1994-9057