The Philosophy of Protest

The Philosophy of Protest

Fighting for Justice without Going to War

Jennifer Kling, Megan Mitchell


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Protest is a critical part of the contemporary political landscape. However, much philosophical theorizing about protest does not consider it as it is actually practiced, and instead focuses on how it should look in the ideal case. We take up the question of how to think about protest in the face of serious, substantial, ongoing injustices. In short, we propose a theory of protest for our world. What can or must protest include? What, if anything, must it avoid? We argue, contrary to popular opinion, that suitably constrained violent political protest is sometimes justified, when it is necessary to send a message about the nature of the injustice at stake. However, violent protests may only target those who are liable for the relevant injustice, and protesters must take care to ensure that their violent actions are not wanton, but are constrained so as to be both effective and communicative. Violent political protest, we contend, is not simply revolution by another name: rather, it is sometimes a last-ditch effort to remedy injustice without going to war.


Jennifer Kling:
Jennifer Kling is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Her research focuses on moral and political philosophy, particularly issues in war and peace, self- and other-defense, international relations, and feminism. She is the author of articles in Journal of Global Ethics and The Routledge Book of Pacifism and Nonviolence, and is the editor of Pacifism, Politics, and Feminism: Intersections and Innovations (Brill, forthcoming). She is currently working on a book project entitled War Refugees: Risk, Justice, and Moral Responsibility (under contract with Lexington Books).|||Megan Mitchell is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. Her work is in political philosophy, particularly issues of race, gender, and political philosophy. She is the author of “The Dimensions of Diversity: Teaching Non-Western Works in Introductory Philosophy Courses,” in Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review.