Civil Disobedience Research Paper


Throughout history, social progress has most clearly been marked through forms of disobedience such as rebellions, strikes, or coup d’etats. These movements are generally representative of the people and are against an authoritative or failing government. Disobedience is a valuable human trait and promotes social progress by rejecting the status quo and preventing conformity, protecting the essential trait of individuality.

In 1789, the French Revolution began, an all-together convoluted revolution against a monarchy which in the end resulted in a dictatorship. Many call it unsuccessful, but was it really? It showed the world that the lower class voice can and should be heard. During the revolution, the first king in history was publicly executed by the people. The French shocked the world and monarchs throughout it that the people will eventually stand up. This blatant rejection of the status quo provided an example of disobedience in Europe and the revolutions of 1838 and 1848 turned to the French Revolution for guidance. Now, did the French Revolution actually create social progress? It undoubtedly did so by spurring forth countless revolutions in the future and resulting in the installment of Napoleon and his Napoleonic Codes, a series of progressive, authoritative legislature that was implemented throughout Europe. This is only one instance of how disobedience and deviation from the status quo can result in rapid social progression. The American Revolution, South American Revolution, and Haitian Revolution are all examples as well of disobedience from the status quo which resulted in democratic and progressive morals instilled in the citizens of these areas.

Disobedience is also essential to maintaining humanity’s individuality. If everyone throughout the world meekly followed society, society would never progress. Eventually, it would reach a point where those who are unique are scorned and rejected from society, and given time, purged from society. The accumulation of meekness would result in a dystopia where citizens could not truly be called human. Individuality makes us human, and without disobedience all there would be is conformity. Going back to old Europe, monarchs thrived off of the suppression of the people’s voices. They were forced to conform. Europe stayed this way for centuries, which shows just how important disobedience is. Without individuality and the ability to voice it, society cannot change. Once the people had a voice in situations such as the French Revolution, society did change, highlighting the critical trait of disobedience.

Many argue that when disobedience is used excessively, or improperly it can result in harmful social progress. Some historians believe that the French Revolution was actually a disaster. There was continuous discord within the rebelling group and before Napoleon, the Reign of Terror had killed around 17,000 people, many of them for unjust reasons. Some forms of negative disobedience can be seen today in the capital and BLM riots. However, it is absolutely critical to note that while all of these did have negative aspects, the social progress that was spurred on by these events has had an immeasurable positive impact on the lives of everyone. The French Revolution paved the way towards democracy and resulted in the installment of progressive ideas in the people throughout Europe, eventually bettering the quality of life and amplifying the voices of everyone. While the BLM riots caused millions of dollars of damage and killed some protestors and police officers, it’s a cry for reform did not go unheard. During and shortly after the riots, legislation was introduced and passed throughout states and cities, aimed at reducing police brutality and combating systemic racism. 

None of this social progress could be done without the trait of disobedience. If no one speaks up, speaks against oppressive governments or ideas these governments will never go away. Paramount traits of social progress such as rejecting the status quo and individuality can only exist with the trait of disobedience.  For all we know, without disobedience, most of the world would be under monarchies with no say over their lives. The trait is still essential and implemented today in combating ever-important social issues such as racism, and class inequality.

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