Thoreau deal with the relationship between the government and the individual

In his famous essay ‘Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) has drawn the relationship between the government and the individual. In his opinion, the government should be for the use of working toward the human conscience. He believes that governmental systems take away the right to private life and personal experience.

More Notes: Civil Disobedience

This essay mainly deals with the relationship between the citizen and the state.  It also tells about the nature of government, state, and individual. The essay opens with a paradoxical view. According to Thoreau, ‘That government is best which governs the least. That means Thoreau is famous for the absolute freedom of the individual citizen of a state. This unlimited freedom should be the basis of an ideal form of democracy. 

Civil Disobedience is an analysis of the individual’s relationship to the state that focuses on why men obey governmental law even when they believe it to be unjust. According to Thoreau, conscience should be the guiding force of government or law. He gives the highest importance to conscience and the least importance to the majority. His whole concept of civil disobedience is based on the dictates of conscience. Thoreau thinks that the majority in a so-called democratic state is permitted to rule for long, not because they are most likely to be in the right, but because they are physically the strongest. Thoreau says that conscience makes an individual strong and self-reliant.

More Notes: Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau further says that the multitudes of men serve the state, not mainly as men but as machines. They all constitute the army, police, militia, jailors, etc. we see soldiers marching to wars against their will and conscience. They do not exercise judgment or moral sense. Yet they are regarded as good citizens. But those who serve the state with a conscience are commonly treated as enemies. 

Thus, Thoreau has considered the relationship between the state and the individual at different levels and has convincingly shown that individual and individual conscience should be the basis of a good state.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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