While many contemporary political philosophers agree that citizens of a legitimate state enjoy a moral right to civil disobedience, they differ over both the grounds of that right and its content. This essay defends the view that the moral right to civil disobedience derives from (or is a facet of) a general right to political participation, and the characterization of that right as precluding the state from punishing, but not from penalizing, those who exercise it. The argument proceeds by way of rebuttals to criticisms of both claims recently advanced by Kimberley Brownlee. While in some cases those criticisms fail on their merits, in other cases the responses offered here reveal that the dispute over the ground and content of a moral right to civil disobedience reflects deeper disagreements regarding two foundational issues: first, whether moral rights are best conceived of as defeasible evaluative principles or conclusive normative ones, and second, whether principles of justice should be theorized on the basis of full or partial compliance.

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Copyright © 2017 Springer Nature Switzerland AG. Article first published online: 4 May 2017.

DOI: 10.1007/s11158-017-9362-5

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Lefkowitz, David. “In Defense of Penalizing (but Not Punishing) Civil Disobedience.” Res Publica 24, no. 3 (August 15, 2018): 273–289. DOI: 10.1007/s11158-017-9362-5