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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sticker art arguing that dissent is necessary for democracy.

Dissent is a sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea (eg. a government's policies) or an entity (eg. an individual or political party which supports such policies). The term's antonyms include agreement, consensus (when all or nearly all parties agree on something) and consent (when one party agrees to a proposition made by another).

In some political systems, dissent may be formally expressed by way of opposition politics, while politically repressive regimes may prohibit any form of dissent, leading to suppression of dissent and the encouragement of social or political activism. Individuals who do not conform or support the policies of certain states may be described as "dissidents," or in extreme cases, "enemies of the state". Several thinkers have argued that a healthy society needs not only to protect, but also to encourage dissent.[1][2]

In a well known letter to Arnold Ruge, Karl Marx wrote: "if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be."[3]

See also


  1. ^ Bailey, Gordon Ideology: Structuring Identities in Contemporary Life, p.124
  2. ^ Kozol, J. (1981) Foreword. In Mackie, R. (Ed.), Literacy and revolution: The pedagogy of Paulo Freire. p.XV
  3. ^ Marx to Ruge. Kreuznach, September 1843. Letter from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. ( as cited in Wilhelm Reich (1936) prefaction to Die Sexualität im Kulturkampf


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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Dissent is a sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea, such as a government's policies, or an entity – such as an individual or political party which advocates such policies. The term's antonyms include agreement, consensus (when all or nearly all parties agree on something) and consent (when one party agrees to a proposition made by another).



We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.
  • Political dissension is doubtless a less evil than the lethargy of despotism: but still it is a great evil, and it would be as worthy the efforts of the patriot as of the philosopher, to exclude its influence if possible, from social life. The good are rare enough at best. There is no reason to subdivide them by artificial lines. But whether we shall ever be able so far to perfect the principles of society as that political opinions shall, in its intercourse, be as inoffensive as those of philosophy, mechanics, or any other, may well be doubted.
  • There is one tradition in America I am proud to inherit. It is our first freedom and the truest expression of our Americanism: the ability to dissent without fear. It is our right to utter the words, "I disagree." We must feel at liberty to speak those words to our neighbors, our clergy, our educators, our news media, our lawmakers and, above all, to the one among us we elect President.
  • You can actively flee, then, and you can actively stay put.
    • Erik Erikson, Insight and Responsibility, New York, W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1964, p. 86; cited in Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, p. 49, footnote 5.
  • It's beyond me how anybody can look at these protestors and call them anything other than what they are: anti-American, anticapitalist, pro-Marxist communists.
    • Rush Limbaugh, speaking about political dissent (February 2003), quoted in — Hunt, Jim (2009). They Said What?: Astonishing Quotes on American Democracy, Power, and Dissent‎. Polipoint Press. p. 22. ISBN 0981709168.  
  • The right to dissent is the only thing that makes life tolerable for a judge of an appellate court... the affairs of government could not be conducted by democratic standards without it.
  • The first opinion the Court ever filed has a dissenting opinion. Dissent is a tradition of this Court... When someone is writing for the Court, he hopes to get eight others to agree with him, so many of the majority opinions are rather stultified.
  • In the end it is worse to suppress dissent than to run the risk of heresy.
    • Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes lecture delivered at Harvard (1958); quoted in The Rhetoric of Our Times (1969) by J. Jeffery Auer, p. 124.
  • The fault I find with most American newspapers is not the absence of dissent. it is the absence of news. With a dozen or so honorable exceptions, most American newspapers carry very little news. Their main concern is advertising.
  • No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
    • Barbara Ehrenreich, "Family Values," The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (1991)
  • A dissenting minority feels free only when it can impose its will on the majority: what it abominates most is the dissent of the majority.
    • Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, aph. 40 (1973)
  • In a society where dissenting viewpoints are suppressed, those viewpoints are potent and dangerous... Where dissent is tolerated, it rapidly becomes quaint and is viewed as un-sophisticated; people merely amuse themselves with the expression of contrary opinion.
    • Oscar, in Melmoth by David Sim, p. 41, 1991
  • Leading fosters a working atmosphere that stimulates an open exchange of ideas and fosters dissent. People should show a genuine concern for one another and treat one another with fairness, as peers and friends. With such an atmosphere it should be a pleasure to come to work.
    • Marvin Bower, (1997). The Will to Lead. p. 131, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, ISBN 0-87584-758-7
  • A simple way to determine whether the right to dissent in a particular society is being upheld is to apply the town square test: Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm? If he can, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it's a fear society.
    • Natan Sharansky, The Case for Democracy, pp. 40–41, 2004, with Ron Dermer
  • Thought that is silenced is always rebellious. Majorities, of course, are often mistaken. This is why the silencing of minorities is necessarily dangerous. Criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidote to major delusions.
  • The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.


  • The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.
  • If our democracy is to flourish, it must have criticism; if our government is to function it must have dissent.

See also


  1. a b Dissent is the highest form of patriotism, Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia
  2. Discussion at (Misattributed: Dissent is the highest form of patriotism)
  3. [1]


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