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Of rebels and disobedients: reflections on Arendt, race, lawbreaking

Çubukçu, Ayça (2020) Of rebels and disobedients: reflections on Arendt, race, lawbreaking. Law and Critique. ISSN 0957-8536

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s10978-020-09271-x


Hannah Arendt valued the unprecedented, the unexpected, and the new, yet in essays crafted at the end of the rebellious 1960s, struggled to square this valuation with a palpable desire for law and order. She lamented that criminality had overtaken American life, accused the police of not arresting enough criminals, and charged ‘the Negro community’ with standing behind what she named black violence. At once, she praised ‘the white rebels’ of the student movement in the United States for their courageous acts of disobedience. This essay explores how differential Arendt’s treatment of lawbreaking action was in an effort to understand how ‘certain sections of the population’ in the United States could appear to stand for criminality rather than civil disobedience to her mind. It examines how Arendt’s reflections on the ostensibly non-racial subjects of civil disobedience and lawbreaking were underwritten by racial, when not racist, ways of thinking. The essay also raises a larger question: to the extent that the concept of civil disobedience involves limits, how are those limits drawn to the exclusion of certain kinds of actors and their particular claims in the public realm? Pondering this question through Arendt, it concludes that in her theorization of civil disobedience, Arendt was profoundly limited by the fabulous tale that the United States is an exceptional land of freedom and democracy in the world.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2020 13:54
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2024 00:45

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