Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Legal Studies

Reader 1

Rivka Weinberg

Reader 2

Paul Hurley

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Rights Information

© 2013 Christina R. Noriega


Though ultimately seeking more just law, civil disobedience still entails the breaching of a law. For this reason, most theories hold that people who practice civil disobedience must be willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions. On the other hand, a nation that is truly committed to justice will recognize that its constitution and legal order may in some ways fall short of perfect justice. In this thesis, I defend Rawls’s theory of civil disobedience as unique in its capacity for justification and even government toleration. Appealing to a shared conception of justice, Rawlsian civil disobedients are able to ground their actions in the same principles to which the state is committed. I argue that Rawls’s shared conception of justice is further substantiated when read in the light of his later theory of the overlapping consensus of comprehensive doctrines. I ultimately conclude that civil disobedience construed in the Rawlsian sense ought to receive some degree of toleration by the state, and particularly by constitutional states which maintain a formal commitment to justice in the protection of rights and intentional design of government institutions.

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