Civil disobedience in a distorted public sphere

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Rawls’s notion of civil disobedience, which still dominates the literature on this subject, comprises at least these three characteristics: it involves breaking the law, is non-violent and public. But implicit in this notion is a certain tension: it shows pessisimism about the proper functioning of the public sphere as earlier normal appeals have failed, but it also displays a certain optimism about its proper functioning as it assumes that civil disobedience may be effective. In my paper I argue that Rawls cannot explain how civil disobedience may be effective as a public appeal for social justice because he does not fully understand what it means for civil disobedience to be public in relation to the public sphere. His analysis would require an additional notion of publicity which, as I argue, is the notion of hermeneutical publicity. From a Bourdieusian perspective I then make a case for the claim that public spheres always suffer from hermeneutic invisibility. This may explain why non-violent appeals for social justice fail as dialogical practices. Finally I suggest how we nevertheless could understand that civil disobedience can be effective as a dialogical practice.
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First archival date: 2017-08-13
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Forms of Talk.Goffman, Erving

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