Refusal to obey government demands or commands and nonresistance to consequent arrest and punishment. It is used especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing government concessions and has been a major tactic of nationalist movements in Africa and India, of the U.S. civil rights movement, and of labour and antiwar movements in many countries. Civil disobedience is a symbolic or ritualistic violation of the law, rather than a rejection of the system as a whole. The civil disobedient, finding legitimate avenues of change blocked or nonexistent, sees himself as obligated by a higher, extralegal principle to break some specific law. By submitting to punishment, the civil disobedient hopes to set a moral example that will provoke the majority or the government into effecting meaningful political, social, or economic change. The philosophical roots of civil disobedience lie deep in Western thought. Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, and John Locke, among others, appealed to systems of natural law that take precedence over the laws created by communities or states (positive law). More modern advocates and practitioners of civil disobedience include Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Clandestine groups opposed to Nazi rule in German-occupied Europe in World War II. The groups included civilians who worked secretly against the occupation and armed bands of partisans or guerrilla fighters. Resistance activities ranged from assisting the escape of Jews and Allied airmen shot down over enemy territory to committing sabotage, ambushing German patrols, and sending intelligence information to the Allies. Resistance groups were not always unified; in some countries, rival groups divided along communist and noncommunist lines. However, in France the clandestine National Council of the Resistance coordinated all French groups, which gave support to the Normandy Campaign and participated in the August 1944 uprising that helped liberate Paris. Resistance groups in other northern European countries also undertook military actions to help the Allied forces in 1944–45.
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