In the history of human development struggle and resistance to the system was one of the ways of population to improve their quality of life, establish human rights and finally develop democratic regimes in their countries. While resistance of the former days was rather violent than civil, and the target was tyranny rather than existing liberal regime; nowadays, the “legitimate” public method of resistance and its targets had changed. Today, civil disobedience is taking place as a form of public dissatisfaction with a certain legal or political aspect in liberal democracies or desire to change regime into a democratic one in the developing countries. The topic of the present essay is not a comparative analysis of historical and current methods of public resistance, but exploration of efficiency of the civil obedience. The aim is to find out the criteria under which civil disobedience will work or fail. The main criteria analyzed in this paper include size/scale of the action and media coverage, target object, methods of protests, and modes of behavior during the arrest.
The first criterion is the size or scale of the civil disobedience. Observations of the Kirkpatrick J. show that efficiency of the solitary civil disobedience had decreased in the recent decades (38). While, before, a single case of starving protestant chained to the entrance of shopping mall would make the top news; today, this event would bother mainly police officers who would have to arrest this person (Falcon & Muckley 51). On the other hand, non-violent massive demonstrations on the Tahrir Square and Ukrainian Independence Square were noticed by the whole international community and had their successful outcome – changes of political regimes and reforms took place (Kirkpatrick 87). In this context, the media effect comes to the picture. Since the modern audience is quite accustomed to the visual reflection of all possible disasters, conflicts and explicit violence depiction; it is hard to get its attention to a small protest. On the other hand, big massive demonstrations and disobedience to the law by masses counted in hundred thousand would attract viewers’ attention; that is why it would be more likely to attract media (Kirkpatrick 84). Subsequently, civil disobedience works when it is massive, covered in media and when it also attracts attention of the international community, because then national government would have to answer before the international community about events happening inside the country.
Another criterion is target object. In this sense the institution, at which act of disobedience is directed, is meant. In this context, more successful disobedience is in cases when the target object is government and its certain policy, legal framework or single act. The reason why success is possible is that governmental institutions are obliged to deal with those issues with the concern to public opinion and regard to comprehension of citizens’ needs and preferences (Markovits 1905). On the other hand, non-governmental institutions are not that much concerned about opinion of some interest groups or civil protesters. So far, those organizations are working in terms of legal legislature and no evidences of violations are given, civil disobedience will have no influence on the target institution (Markovits 1907). The most prominent example concerns corporations testing medications on the animals and protests of the environmentalists against it. Although such actions attract certain degree of public attention, direct affects on the corporations are not very successful. Subsequently, according to this criterion, civil disobedience targeting governmental institutions has more chances to succeed than those targeting non-governmental ones.
Concerning the methods of protest, in order to get desired outcome, non-violent methods should be used under all circumstances. The main reason why violence should not be used is not only because it is illegal, useless and harmful for both, the protestant and society; but also because, in the end, “the act of resistance is remembered for the violence applied towards other people, then the initial intentions of the disobedience” (Kirkpatrick 112). Subsequently, another constituent element of successful civil disobedience is non-violent behavior during the arrest. Although is may seem that disobedience would actually envision resistance to the law enforcement and in most cases it does, the outcome of struggling with the police officer is not a better explanation of one’s views (Falcon & Muckley 62). In this context, “the struggle against system is substituted by a single act of fight with a person fulfilling his/her duties – protecting public from violence” (Kirkpatrick 114). Thus, the shift from resistance to actual “criminal activity” takes place. Subsequently, in any of the mentioned cases, when violence takes place civil obedience fails to achieve its goals, because, in the end, ideas are forgotten, but the injured toll is not (Markovits 1911).
Overall, it can be summarized that in order to succeed under current conditions of a globalised world, civil disobedience should be, first of all, collective and the more people are involved, the better. Secondly, the demonstration or starving seating should be of large scale, both of number and space. Subsequently, it would be able to attract attention of the local and national authorities through the media. In cases of political reforms or struggle for the regime democratization, broad media coverage would involve international community into the issue, which would put pressure on the governmental actions in the field. In order to succeed, under no circumstances, should participants of civil disobedience use violence in their demonstrations, since in their actions would be remembered for the violence rather than for their ideas. From my personal perspective, civil disobedience is less effective than public, peaceful demonstrations, mainly because the first one is challenging the authorities, while the second one is explaining them in a transparent and exact manner what people want.
Falcon y Tella, M.J. & Muckley, P. Civil Disobedience. Boston, MA: Martinus Nijhoff.
Kirkpatrick, J. Uncivil Disobedience: Studies in Violence and Democratic Politics. Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press. 2008. Print.
Markovits, D. Democratic Disobedience. Yale Law Journal, 114.8 (2005): 1897-1921. Print.