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125 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of individualism and the fight for justice.
Civil Disobedience is one of the most importance works of philosophy ever written. Like all great works of philosophy, it is as relevant today as it has ever been, as it transcends space and time. Don't let the abolitionist nature mislead you: this book is not merely about abolition and slavery. Rather, it is about Man Against the State, individuality, and Thoreau's...
Published on November 25, 2004 by Ragnarok Books

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading material
There were enough typos in the reading material to be noticeable. While this doesn't affect the quality of writing by HDT, it does make continuous reading difficult.
Published 22 months ago by litchick66


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125 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of individualism and the fight for justice., November 25, 2004
Civil Disobedience is one of the most importance works of philosophy ever written. Like all great works of philosophy, it is as relevant today as it has ever been, as it transcends space and time. Don't let the abolitionist nature mislead you: this book is not merely about abolition and slavery. Rather, it is about Man Against the State, individuality, and Thoreau's philosophy of how one man can stand up to government and society, driven by his own convictions of right and wrong, as summarized by the timeless quote "Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already".

Thoreau's main point is that the best - and many times, the only - method for fighting injustice is through passive disobedience. By refusing to cooperate with the machinery of injustice, the individual can become the friction that stops the machine. Active resistance is bound for failure, as the machine (the State, society, etc.) is too formidable for the individual to fight. But, by refusing to cooperate, justice can be achieved and injustice toppled.

If you are looking for a marvelous primer on individuality and the fight for justice, start with this book.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It is not so desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."-Henry David Thoreau, February 27, 2009
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This review is from: Civil Disobedience (Paperback)
In "Civil Disobedience" Thoreau presents political theories in which he dissects democracy and the interaction between citizens and their government.
Understandably, Thoreau was deeply concerned about injustices he witnessed during his life, such as enslavement of one sixth of the population and the invasion of Mexico by the United States.
Thoreau does not oppose the institution of government; he believes that when a government becomes "abused and perverted", it ceases to represent the will of the people. When a government makes decisions that promulgate harm and injustice, it is the duty of its citizens to rebel and break those chains of injustices.

Arguably, the strongest idea Thoreau presents, is the notion of individualism. Thoreau encourages skepticism of the government and rejects blind loyalty to it. Thoreau perceives citizens, who give blind loyalty to their government's decisions without questioning them, as participants in every injustice committed by that government. Whether this point of view is correct or not, it is worth debating, especially in view of the horrific injustices that are extant in today's world and the way the masses so easily accept them without considering the negative impact on others.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A testament to American Individualism, December 31, 2009
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Bagels (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
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This is a thoroughly American view on political theory given the emphasis on the individual coupled with the call for civil disobedience. Definitely not for the faint hearted, go into this with a grasp of the events of the day and a willingness to read the entire essay at least twice to fully appreciate Thoreau's points.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Solution to Where America has Gone Wrong, May 4, 2011
Civil Disobedience sits quietly in the national psyche as one of the founding documents of modern American liberalism. It's well known to liberals but not well read. It is worth the reading and would likely surprise liberals and non-liberals alike - as it did me. Sure, it's anti-war and anti-slavery, but it's also a lot more. The confused hodgepodge of modern isms that dominate current political thought could use the purity, consistency, and clarity that were second nature to thinkers nearer the American Revolution.

Consider, for example, Thoreau's political philosophy:

"I heartily accept the motto, - "That government is best which governs least;" and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically."

Or his take on government aid to societal improvement:

"Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of the way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way."

Thoreau on economic policy:

"Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India-rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way."

1848 was also the year of another seminal work, the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. Where Thoreau looked back to the 18th century, Marx looked forward to the 20th . Where Thoreau recognized that the power of the state will not easily be compartmentalized, that power to do one thing will infect all things, Marx looked to the state to solve every problem. Where Thoreau knew that state power does not peacefully or voluntarily diminish, Marx justified his appeal for total state power - the dictatorship of the proletariat - with the naïve expectation that government would dissolve away into a stateless utopian paradise.

Thoreau, I expect, would have no trouble explaining why Americans who protest wars but advocate government intervention in the economy, get wars; or why Americans who advocate nonintervention in the economy, small taxes, and small government but support a worldwide military presence, get controlled markets, high taxes, and large government.

It has been pointed out that the structural deficits which have finally brought U.S. governmental finances to the point of crisis, got their start in the Vietnam War and Great Society. Us moderns tend to blame/praise conservatives for the wars and liberals for the social programs, but Thoreau knew wars and social programs are joined at the hip. We can have both or neither but not one or the other. Conservatives and liberals share equal responsibility. Civil Disobedience points to the solution.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoreau would be shocked by today's government, August 19, 2010
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It seems to be a great truth that the most profound points are made in very short works. This is a very influential work by Thoreau that is the foundation of civil disobedience. Gandhi and Martin Luther King were greatly influenced by this work.

A famous quote from this work is "That government is best which governs least". Today's bloated government would literally drive him mad. I've also read "Walden" and it expresses similar sentiments.

This short pamphlet should be read by everyone. I would personally love to see less government and agree that civil disobedience is a very good way to encourage change. It sounds like politicians back then were similar to what we have today. Some things never change.

These kindle freebies have given me a great and easy way to review several items I have wanted to read for years.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy this., March 15, 2011
By 
Todd Stephens (Lakeland, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Civil Disobedience (Paperback)
I give it 5 stars because Civil Disobedience is a masterful bit of writing. However, save your money on this. It's my own fault for not reading the item description closer, but this is only the essay. It is 24 pages with no commentary or analysis provided. The essay is available to read freely online at numerous sites. I HIGHLY encourage everyone to read this essay, just don't spend your $$ for a paper copy of it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take back your power, March 19, 2007
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Though many statements Thoreau has made seem a little flakey around the edges, when it came to free will and individual choice he had the right idea and the courage to see it through. The importance of centralizing power within oneself is perhaps more important today than ever when unrestrained government in partnership with multinational corporations weild enormous destructive power. A book that has not lost its relevance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential World Masterpiece, April 14, 2010
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This review is from: Civil Disobedience (Paperback)
Henry David Thoreau's "Resistance to Civil Government" - or "Civil Disobedience," as it became known - is an essential part of American literature, culture, and history. Even more remarkably, it is undeniable proof that great literature can have a real effect on the world even long after it is written and ignored. The essay is world famous as the founding text of civil disobedience, i.e., non-violent protest, and its effect on such luminaries as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King was profound, thus sealing its immortality. This alone makes it essential for all.

However, it is easy to forget that the essay is a masterpiece in itself. Essentially Thoreau's highly individual expression of his mentor Emerson's self-reliance doctrine applied to government, it has a wealth of depth and nuance despite its brevity. The words are few but the implications endless; it has enough food for proverbial thought to last a lifetime. The gist is very clear, but the implications have spoken very differently to many different people. The work's nature - and Thoreau's generally - is such that it and he are championed by everyone from neocons to libertarians to liberals, and the truly notable thing is that all are justified. This underscores the importance of reading the essay for ourselves.

Its main query is "What does the individual owe the state?," the answer being a resounding "Nothing." Thoreau takes the maxim that the government that governs least governs best to its logical conclusion by wishing for one that governs not at all - a brave wish very few have seriously dared to make or even conceive. He makes a highly principled stand for individual rights and autonomy, arguing very persuasively that people should be able to go about their business without interference. This of course sounds very much like current libertarians, and their position has indeed hardly ever been better argued. Many related and implied issues - protests against taxation, conscription, etc. - also seem to support them. However, it is important to remember that the essay's crux and most famous section - Thoreau's account of a night spent in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax because he did not want to support war or slavery - was and is immensely liberal. Few issues can be more central to current liberalism than an anti-war stance, and slavery was the era's great liberal cause. All this must be kept firmly in mind amid the many attempts to reduce Thoreau to a current party platform. He was at once too simple and too complex for this and would not have suffered himself to be thus reduced; nor does the essay justify it.

Integral as all this is, the work's core point is arguably a new self-reliance argument above and beyond immediate practical considerations. Thoreau certainly had a practical, political streak, especially compared to relative idealists like Emerson, but he thought individuality more sacred than anything. He articulated this more fully elsewhere, but it is very present here. His work is thus in many ways the best kind of self-help material - and, unlike the mass of current self-help tripe littering bookshelves, is intellectually and even aesthetically pleasing. Thoreau was the most thoroughly local writer that can be imagined, but his willingness to look deep inside himself for the eternal truths present in all people has made him an inspiration to millions and millions of people from across the political spectrum and indeed the world. This essay is a major part of his legacy and thus one of the very few works that literally everyone should read. Few can be the same afterward, and it will change many lives; it is nothing less than one of the most important documents ever written, and its value simply cannot be exaggerated. It is an excellent primer for those new to Thoreau, and those who have not already done so should open their minds to him immediately - and once done, they will never be closed again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stand Up!, December 30, 2010
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This is a fantastic essay on standing up for what you believe in -- Thoreau was a true iconoclast and a great life model. The only worry about this essay is that it can be easily cherry-picked to fit an ideological stance all across the spectrum. It is more concise and focused than some of hos other works, but perhaps for that reason, less quotable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "That government is best which governs least.", May 2, 2012
By 
Karl Janssen (Olathe, KS United States) - See all my reviews
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In Civil Disobedience, first published in 1849, Henry David Thoreau asserts that when a government acts in a way contrary to the conscience of one of its individual subjects, that individual has a duty to deny any allegiance to that government by ceasing to pay taxes and refusing to obey unjust laws. While Thoreau was focused on the issues of slavery and the Mexican-American War, much of the rhetoric in Civil Disobedience is broad enough that it can be used as an inspirational rallying cry for dissenters of every stripe, from anarchists to Tea Partiers. By today's standards, Thoreau's own political thought was a fiercely individualistic mix of liberalism and libertarianism. He was a staunch pacifist, anti-military, and critical of the judicial and penal systems, yet he was also against big government, trade regulation, and taxation. In Thoreau's view, all governments are inherently corrupt. Just because democracy is based on majority rule doesn't make it any less corrupt, because the approval of the majority is no guarantee of justice and right. Instead of waiting for their government to become just, citizens should behave justly, even if that means breaking the law.

Civil Disobedience amounts to about thirty pages in printed form, and takes about an hour to read, depending on how much time you want to spend dissecting Thoreau's antiquated grammar and syntax. From the perspective of the language alone, this is a more difficult, less accessible read than his best-known work, Walden. More effort is required to decipher Thoreau's prose in order to extract the kernel of his message. The Kindle file that's available for free on Amazon was created by Project Gutenberg. The text was typed rather than scanned, but doesn't seem to have been proofread, as it still contains several typographical errors. The file includes only the text of Thoreau's essay, with no introduction or notes. In this case, notes can be helpful in clarifying some of Thoreau's historical references, so a well-edited paperback edition may provide a more helpful reading experience for first-time readers. For those familiar with Thoreau and this great work, however, a digital, highlightable copy makes for a welcome addition to your portable e-book library.
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Civil Disobedience
Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau (Paperback - September 19, 2009)
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