A growing number of political activists and scholars defend the idea of state-based or political-institutional civil disobedience: they locate civil disobedience's agency in state rather than civil society–based actors. Diverging from older ideas of civil disobedience as directed against government, the concept of institutional disobedience raises tough questions its exponents have not yet fully answered. Civil disobedience has usually referred to politically motivated lawbreaking that is morally conscientious, nonviolent, and demonstrates basic respect for law. Because of the modern state's normatively ambivalent traits (e.g., its monopoly on legitimate coercion), political-institutional disobedience is incompatible with minimally acceptable interpretations of civil disobedience's core components. Political-institutional civil disobedience's advocates mischaracterize what they in fact are proposing, namely, disobedience to the law by individual state officials. Such offiical disobedience poses challenges distinct from and probably greater than civil society–based disobedience.
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