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Posted on April 21st, 2014, by

Thinking about the lessons concerning the government and society, we need to refer to Thoreau’s “Resistance to Civil Government”¯, where the author proved that the idea of the public good and the duty of every citizen is to serve this good act as the moral basis of political commitments that govern citizen. It can be mentioned that the idea that the public good is always above the personal good is the main argument of the creation of a State. Accordingly, the criterion of legitimacy of the state is its ability to serve the public good. Since, a moral obligation, according to Thoreau, is at the heart of political commitments, and then any political discussion as to what is a public good, and how to serve it, will inevitably acquire a moral character. In a democracy as a fundamental agreement between the members of the society lies the idea that citizens serve to the idea of the public interest or the public good, placing it above their own interests through participation in the political decision-making. In such a way, the author explains political issues to the readers, and it is easy to see that the social and political views of Thoreau imply decentralization of political commitment of individuals. It means that Thoreau sees proper interpersonal relationships only in the form of neighborliness, calling such a relationship not the commune, but the community. Only these interpersonal relationships, in his opinion, can form the basis of fundamental agreements that give moral grounding to the performance of institutional commitments. So, Thoreau considered that it is possible to build his alternative political system only on their basis.

To add, Thoreau teaches us to think about own territories and the country’s citizens in other even specific way because he enclosed his policy of privacy in the framework of neighborliness. In the essay “Resistance to Civil Government,”¯ Thoreau said about the necessity of such a state, which would apply to the citizen as a neighbor. A political action can and should be built on the example of how one neighbor refers to another. In this case, the agreement is achieved through the full conviction of each of the opposing sides in the moral justification to maintain the position. In such a way, ethics of neighborliness is a means of effective substitution of legal obligations, intended to regulate interpersonal relations for Thoreau. According to Thoreau, any other form of political participation can contribute to a full-fledged system of moral authority.

It means that separation between legal and moral obligations, which makes the author, allows him to narrow the scope of political participation to relationships between individuals, while the statement also demonstrates the readers that the author declared the necessity to follow moral obligations. In his view, moral obligations are the basis of any action which has political implications, and act as the obligation concerning the people and not the institutions. In this sense, they are unofficial, that is not relevant to the state.

Summarizing all the above mentioned, we can come to the conclusion that both Douglas’ and Thoreau’s literary works have a very useful lessons in their content. Both literary works teach the readers to plunge into the discussed questions with all the details, not to be perfunctory in own research beginning with the life of ordinary people and ending with global political problems concerning the ways how the government should take care of own citizens.

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