Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 179–192 | Cite as

The communicative aspects of civil disobedience and lawful punishment

  • Kimberley BrownleeEmail author
Original Paper


A parallel may be drawn between the communicative aspect of civil disobedience and the communicative aspect of lawful punishment by the state. In punishing an offender, the state seeks to communicate both its condemnation of the crime committed and its desire for repentance and reformation on the part of the offender. Similarly, in civilly disobeying the law, a disobedient seeks to convey both her condemnation of a certain law or policy and her desire for recognition that a lasting change in policy is required. When disobedients and authorities target each other, their confrontation allows for a direct comparison of the respective justifiability of their conduct. Their confrontation is explored in this paper with an eye to analysing how civil disobedients and authorities should engage with each other.


Civil disobedience Communication Desert Deterrence Dialogue Justification Punishment 



I am grateful for the feedback I received from participants of the Socio-Legal Studies Association annual conference, University of Stirling, Scotland, 28–30 March 2006; the London Legal and Political Philosophy Seminar 3–4 April 2006; and the 10th annual Law and Philosophy Colloquium, University College London, 3–4 July 2006. I also wish to thank Claire Grant, Kinch Hoekstra, Christoph Ortner, Mark Reiff, John Tasioulas, and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on previous drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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