Civil disobedience in a globalized world
Is national civil disobedience justified by international injustice in the light of climate crisis?
We no longer live in national states. Globalization has interconnected countries and states and is questioning the meaningfulness of national citizenship and national laws. The crises we face are global, not national, so thinking within the boundaries of nationhood is a short-term strategy at best.
Yet despite knowing that this is the reality of the world, it’s not how our world is structured yet. Governments still only rule their countries and citizens only have political power within their nations. This is not an argument for a world government, but a discussion of the implications of globalization for the political power of citizens facing very real crises that cause massive injustice. What can we do as nation-bound people to fight injustices in a globalized world?
In the following, I’ll discuss the ethical justification for using civil disobedience to right international injustices, using the climate crisis as an example for the discussion.
What and Why of Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience is a political tool of citizens to fight injustice. Historically speaking, this tool has played a major part in shaping our world today. The greatest social movements, like the American Civil Right’s Movement led by Martin Luther King jr. and the Indian Independence Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, were based upon civil disobedience.
Philosopher John Rawls defines civil disobedience as: “a public, nonviolent, conscientious yet political act contrary to law usually done with the aim of bringing about a change in the law or policies of the government,” and as the last available means to fight injustice after lawful appeals have been unfruitful. Let’s break Rawls’ definition down.
Firstly, civil disobedience is public, nonviolent and conscientious. It takes place in the public sphere through peaceful means that consciously break the law with the aim of bringing attention to injustice. It’s meant to be of annoyance, cause debate, and make it impossible to ignore the injustice supposedly taking place.