Self-Reliance and the Duty of Civil Disobedience is an essay written by Henry David Thoreau on the role of civil disobedience in modern society. The thesis examines neighborhood men, the importance of becoming a decent person, and, most notably, the majority’s folly. The philosopher discusses intolerance to inequality, freedom from the state, and adhering to values, both of which he classifies as self-reliance. Thoreau asserts that self-sufficiency contributes to successful citizenship. He also emphasizes that adhering to values fosters positive citizenship. The philosopher’s main theme in his essay is undeniably obedience to principles.For instance, when unmasking the notion of surrendering the conscience to the law-makers he says, “Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward” (Thoreau 387). The scholar deciphers the subjects who surrender their consciences, and other men who are mindful of their consciences and make decisions for themselves.
Fundamentally, Thoreau argues that our consciences defines our manhood and that people are left with no other choice but to act on it instead of throwing it to the unfair government. The thinker further emphasizes on this point by comparing men who submit without paying attention to their consciences to “movable forts or magazines” (Thoreau 387). The author backs up his statement by stating, “The only obligation, which I have the right to assume is to do at anytime what I think is right” (Thoreau 387). Whereas the historian’s theme is partly practical, it is reasonable to believe that the theories he lays “Civil Disobedience” and “Self-Reliance” would only work perfectly in a society with healthy and highly intellectual individuals, who are willing to apply the effort required for assessing their thoughts and coming up with their opinions, which they believe are right.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and civil disobedience. Vintage, 2014.