Introduction: A Global Practice of Civil Disobedience

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This introductory chapter, I lay out the idea of a global perspective on civil disobedience by appeal to Rawls’ Law of Peoples. Indeed, I argue for an extension of the theory of civil disobedience from the peoples of liberal-democratic nation states to the international community of decent peoples. Here, the international standard of decency replaces the principles of liberal social justice as justification for diverse cosmopolitan citizens and states disobeying domestic or international law. Decency thus lays the foundation for a global practice of civil disobedience. The chapter offers brief discussions of the three cases of such a disobedient practice that I take up in detail in the subsequent chapters, along with the different issue that they raise for global justice. It also lays out my general approach to civil disobedience in a global perspective. I stress both the limits of liberal theory in light of diverse conceptions of justice capable of supporting a global disobedience practice, and the positive contribution of non-liberal viewpoints to advancing important global justice causes.