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Ricky Mouser

Abstract

How should we think about public rioting for political ends? Might it ever be more than morally excusable behavior? In this essay, I show how political rioting can sometimes be positively morally justified as an intermediate defensive harm in between civilly disobedient protest and political revolution. I do so by reading political rioters as, at the same time, uncivil and ultimately conciliatory with their state. Unlike civilly disobedient protestors, political rioters express a lack of faith in the value or applicability of civility in interacting with the state under the political status quo. But unlike political revolutionaries who aim at separation from the state, political rioters paradigmatically seek fuller inclusion within it. By rejecting even the appearance of compliance with the political status quo’s systems of justice, political rioters can create a unique venue for systemically marginalized citizens to express warranted disrespect for the state that maintains them in ongoing subjection, as well as their inviolable respect for themselves as persons with dignity beyond the boundaries of civility.

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