Kirkpatrick’s Category of Uncivil Disobedience

“Uncivil Disobedience: Studies in Violence and Democratic Politics” by Jennet Kirkpatrick is a book that looks at the significance of violence and terrorism by putting into effect egalitarian principles in America. In this book, Kirkpatrick sees the sights that law can be disregarded by mobs that unite behind the theories of self-government and aspire to formulate laws play in the game of justice. Kirkpatrick depicts the vulnerabilities of autonomy that comes about due to unrest by the citizens when they decide that they want to man their government on their own. The existence of the laws or the constitution brings some order to the people to some extent.

Various scenarios depicting uncivil disobedience in the olden times of America have been noted in this book. They include frontier vigilantism, Southern lynch mobs, militant abolitionism, and the contemporary militia movement. The main notion that drives these peoples’ motives to engage in uncivil disobedience is the captivating ideals of independence and supremacy. These ideals have been used to give a good reason for the killing and terrorism during uncivil disobedience. Kirkpatrick employs a bottom-up examination of occurrences that trigger the killings and further more, how the mobs relate to the citizens and to the rule of law. Uncivil disobedience, therefore, demands for harmony and peace by the citizens as this would enable the rule of law to prevail, thus bringing order and peace in the society.


This book investigates the hazards of clinging too much to autonomy, the rule of law, and the constitution, for instance, the citizens’ resort to unnecessary and illegal riots or chaos with the mentality that they are defending and protecting what they deem as right. Kirkpatrick has displayed a plot of nasty characters, which include of the lynch mobs, militia and the vigilantes. The author has further categorized the citizen within the framework of a customary political establishment. According to Michael Walzer, a professor at Emeritus Institute of Advanced Studies, Kirkpatrick has selected a nice crop of characters that fit in the story in all dimensions.

The book is wonderful in as much as it is pleasing to the eye and marvelous.  The author starts with shocking historical revelations about the past encounters between the United States and terrorist groups. Actually the terrorists had no intention at all to overthrow the American government; instead, they were just common citizens who wanted to air out their grievances and fight to defend what they considered just and rightfully theirs, since they are stipulated in the constitution. In addition, the book sets up a candid and essential debate whether the laws that are defined in the constitution are similar in temperament with the democratic politics of the day. The link between the citizens’ ethics and their determination is very important as it helps in the interpretation of the law in a manner that is well understood and endorsed by all. Uncivil disobedience; therefore, is a book that traces the starting point and the way of life of the violent citizens in the United States.

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Every citizen fights for democracy, as democracy is perceived by many as the highest level of political and social maturity. Oblivious to many, democratic ideas pose as a major threat to peace in the society. Everyone needs something and when things do not work out as they had envisaged, then they will resort to various actions in order to make their grievances heard and appropriate action taken. These actions actually form the basis of uncivil disobedience as stipulated by the author. The acts of uncivil disobediences that are portrayed in the book do not actually illustrate the author as intimidating to the America’s democracy; instead they show that the author is very conscious of the downfall of America’s democracy and civilization .


The book displays the various distinct levels of cultural differences among the citizens in relation to the political violence in the United States. Both Thoreau and Rosa Parks create major disputes that culminate in a confrontation with John Brown and Timothy McVeigh. When violence is perceived to be an external point from the law, then the citizens are exposed to social hazards as they feel neglected and despised. The book has several aspects of history and makes major propositions for other dimensions of thinking and orientations of the mind. The book further gives the connection between the past of America’s history to the present since it explores the sources and origins of violence and disputes with total disregard to the law.

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Kirkpatrick explains the main driving force behind the reasons for the lynch mobs to engage in the violent activities. This notion actually poses several questions regarding the level of democracy in America’s nation. Another outstanding element of the book is the potential to link the past forms of both civil and uncivil disobediences to an extreme political school of thought. This element proves to be fruitful to the readers as it provides additional insights regarding the past government’s failure to address the demands of the citizens. Uncivil disobedience as portrayed in the book portrays the well-matched relation between the rule of the law and the rule of the people .Indeed, the book exposes the main driving force behind the violence and the significance it has on the democratic politics and justice. The author’s main idea of coming up with this piece of literature is to explore the root and the origin of social disorder by the citizens opposing the administrations that serve them. The conflict is caused by a mere clash of interest and ideals between the government and the citizens. The American vigilantes and the militia members received a rough treatment from the government as they were seen to oppose the government’s policies and values.  

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An example of a modern day uncivil disobedience took place in Egypt in early 2011. The citizens went on the streets to oppose what they perceived as neocolonialism by the government. As a result, the government arrested and persecuted citizens who engaged in social unrest. The main motive behind these unrests was the increased levels of impunity by the government officials. The government officers engaged in corruption but were never arrested. Public money was mismanaged. The level of security for the citizens had deteriorated. The president was above the law and made decisions of national interest without making any consultations. The police officers engaged in extra-judicial killings of innocent citizens. It was because of all these reasons that the citizens decided to go on the streets to demand for a change.  

On the streets, the citizens encountered great opposition from the police and military officers, but they were still adamant to drive their point home. They came in thousands from all over Egypt and the destination was the president’s palace. Their primary demand was that the president should resign and hand over power to a leader who would change the political dimension of the country as a whole. The police officers and the army officers killed hundreds of the citizens and arrested or detained in the process. These killings still never deterred the citizens from expressing their grievances and after several days of camping in the streets, their efforts paid off as the president at last decided to step down and hand over power to another person.

This is a typical example of modern day uncivil disobedience in today’s society. The citizens went out to the streets to defend what they believed was rightfully theirs but was taken by the government. The government on the other hand felt that the citizens were asking too much so it deployed police officers and army officials to wedge war against them. Uncivil disobedience is a common behaviour by the citizens especially when they want to air their grievances or oppose the abuse of power by the leaders in authority.


Uncivil disobedience has been vividly differentiated from rebellion by the author. Uncivil disobedience aims at fighting for reforms and maintaining the rule of law. It happens when the principles of true leadership have been forsaken and when the laws stipulated in the constitution have been ignored totally. Thus, the mobs who engage in uncivil disobedience have no other intention other than fighting for what they believe is rightfully theirs. Even though some forms of uncivil disobedience are deemed to be peaceful, certain elements of violence still find their way in the process.

The main center of attention of the book is the general lack of interest with regard to the magnitude and severity of the violence. This clearly ignores the possible connection between political violence and democratic ideals. The approach used by the author to relay the information is very efficient since the author begins by first exploring the historical perspective of uncivil disobedience before getting into the modern school of thought. The book, therefore, focuses mainly on the democratic ideals of the United States, but it can also have some practical relevance to other several nations. The main strong point of the book is the ability to link the historical perspectives of uncivil disobedience to a larger perspective of political democracy.

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