Law and Philosophy

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 465–488 | Cite as

Political Resistance: A Matter of Fairness

  • Candice Delmas


In this paper, I argue that the principle of fairness can license both a duty of fair play, which is used to ground a moral duty to obey the law in just or nearly just societies, and a duty of resistance to unfair and unjust social schemes. The first part of the paper analyzes fairness’ demands on participants in mutually beneficial schemes of coordination, and its implications in the face of injustice. Not only fairness does not require complying with unfair and unjust social schemes, but it also prohibits benefiting from such schemes. I use the case of racial segregation in the U.S. to illustrate this latter argument, and consider some objections to my investigation, given the availability and straightforwardness of justice. The second part of the paper elaborates the argument for the duty to resist. The Radical Reform argument first establishes, by elimination of the alternatives (exit and restitution), that the principal way for citizens to cease benefiting from an unfair and unjust social scheme is to radically reform it. The Resistance Argument then shows that resistance is crucial to bring about reform, so that one ought to resist unfair and unjust schemes from which one benefits. Next, I offer two arguments for collective resistance and political solidarity, one based on empirical considerations and the other based on fairness. Finally, I consider the costs of the resistance efforts which fairness may require.


Moral Duty Civil Disobedience Racial Segregation Fair Play Radical Reform 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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