VIDI Project Robin Celikates. (2015-2019) Participants: Bernardo Caycedo, Natasha Basu, Beate Roessler
Is it ever justified to break the law for moral or political reasons? This question is at the heart of political philosophy since Socrates answered it in the negative and drank the hemlock. Today, most philosophers agree that sometimes disobedience is a right, maybe even a duty – but under which conditions and in which ways? These questions are not purely philosophical. They also touch on the very foundations of citizenship. Accordingly, civil disobedience has received a fair amount of philosophical attention and is regarded as an essential part of the history and present of liberal democracies. It remains, however, also theoretically and politically contested and has undergone significant transformations.
This research project starts from the diagnosis that the predominant understanding of civil disobedience fails to capture these transformations and risks undermining its democratic potential. In three strongly interwoven and mutually constitutive subprojects, it seeks to fill the corresponding gap by addressing three fundamental challenges the standard model faces:
1) How to rethink civil disobedience as not simply the protest of individual rights bearers against transgressive majorities, but as a genuinely democratic practice citizens engage in in order to address structural democratic deficits (subproject 1);
2) how to rethink civil disobedience – often framed as protest citizens engage in against their national governments – in the face of the globalization of political and economic structures and the emergence of new forms of global protest (subproject 2);
3) how to rethink civil disobedience in the face of the rise of the Internet as a tool of political action and as a contested space and the corresponding digitalization of disobedience (subproject 3).
It is the aim of this project to address these three challenges within the framework of a systematic theory of civil disobedience that links philosophical analysis with empirical insights from the social sciences.