Res Publica 25 (4):445-461 (2019)

Zsolt Kapelner
Central European University
Oppressive governments that use violence against citizens, e.g. murder and torture, are usually thought of as liable to armed revolutionary attack by the oppressed population. But oppression may be non-violent. A government may greatly restrict political rights and personal autonomy by using surveillance, propaganda, manipulation, strategic detention and similar techniques without ever resorting to overt violence. Can such regimes be liable to revolutionary attack? A widespread view is that the answer is ‘no’. On this view, unless a government is or is likely to turn violent, revolution against it is disproportional. After all, revolution would involve launching potentially lethal attacks against oppressors who do not threaten the lives and bodily integrity of their subjects but pose only lesser threats. I argue that this claim of disproportionality is false. Armed revolution against Stably Non-violent Oppressive Regimes can be proportional under some circumstances, thus they may be liable to revolutionary attack. My argument relies on the Responsibility-Sensitive Account of Proportionality. This account holds that responsibility for posing threats renders agents liable to greater defensive harms than the harms with which they threaten. Even if non-violent oppressive regimes do not threaten citizens with murder, serious physical injury, or enslavement, their responsibility for creating an environment in which citizens’ political rights and personal autonomy are extremely restricted may loosen the proportionality requirement of inflicting defensive harm and render them liable to revolutionary attack.
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-019-09437-0
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References found in this work BETA

Responsibility Incorporated.Philip Pettit - 2007 - Ethics 117 (2):171-201.
The Basis of Moral Liability to Defensive Killing.Jeff McMahan - 2005 - Philosophical Issues 15 (1):386–405.
Killing in Self‐Defense.Jonathan Quong - 2009 - Ethics 119 (3):507-537.
Self-Defense.Judith Jarvis Thomson - 1991 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 20 (4):283-310.
The Responsibility Dilemma for Killing in War: A Review Essay.Seth Lazar - 2010 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (2):180-213.

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