Resistance (politics)

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As resistance refusing is obedience or the active oppositional action against the authorities or the government called.

First of all, it is of secondary importance whether the rulers against whom resistance is being offered exercise their rule legally, legitimately or illegally. Evaluations such as “justified resistance”, goals and means of resistance, moral and legal concerns require a viewer's point of view: it depends on who, at what place and at what time the evaluation is made. The resister will always evaluate the resistance differently than the one against whom the resistance is directed. The latter, however, is usually the “authorities”, who at the same time have the power to define law and order. Resistance is accordingly outside the set order.

Background and demarcation

Resistance as a form of social and political debate has been anchored in European political culture since ancient times. In almost all forms of society there was or is a consensus that resistance can be necessary and legitimate in certain cases. In specific cases, opinions differ on this.

Resistance is to be distinguished from the revolution because it is not fundamentally aimed at reforming the social order. In certain circumstances, the restoration of an old law or a legal system that has been repealed may be the central concern. Nevertheless, a movement that began as a resistance can result in a revolution.


A distinction is made in terms of the objective:

  1. Resistance directed against what is perceived as unjust political action by a legal, legitimate or recognized government and aimed at restoring the status quo ante ( Latin : the previous state ), d. H. of the right, aims,
  2. Resistance that is directed against the form of rule and aimed at the elimination or removal of a person (see also impeachment ), an authority, a government or an illegal regime.

to form

The forms of resistance are different and depend to a large extent on the prevailing social conditions and rules. For example, a distinction is made between passive and active resistance , the former referring to non-violent resistance and the latter referring to militant, violent resistance.

Forms of resistance are, for example, internal emigration , civil disobedience , non-violent resistance, fun guerrilla , direct action and violent conflicts with the authorities or the state . The case of violent resistance usually represents an ethical dilemma for those who practice it. Bertolt Brecht's poem To the Later Born describes this dilemma with the sentence: “ Oh, we who wanted to prepare the ground for friendliness could not be friendly ourselves. Terrorism is an extreme form of violent resistance .

Resistance can be organized individually , collectively or hierarchically . The organization of resistance in and through groups is known as the resistance movement .

Resistance from a legal, everyday and sociological perspective

Right of resistance in the Basic Law

The right of resistance according to Article 20 paragraph 4 of the Basic Law guarantees every German the right to resist anyone who undertakes to override the free democratic basic order anchored in the Basic Law .

Resistance as an everyday concept

  1. A broad term: Resistance is an attack on power and domination, so it is primarily directed against the state , against governments, against any form of authority. This definition includes any form of non-action against the state and authority, from tax evasion to terrorism.
  2. General term: "Where injustice becomes right, resistance becomes a duty". This slogan , attributed to Bertolt Brecht , became popular in the early 1970s in the anti-nuclear movement against the planned Wyhl nuclear power plant . The sentence is so general that it - in addition to the social movements - also use the NPD , the advertising industry and the taxpayers' association and reduce the concept of resistance to absurdity.
  3. Individual term: Resistance is the rebellion of the unpowerful against the powerful, with a utopia for a just society against which one's own actions must also be measured. In this definition, the individual utopias of a just society and the morality of everyone stand in the way of a general version of the term.

Resistance in international law

In international law , criteria such as ongoing armed struggle, resistance by states or intergovernmental organizations (e.g. the United Nations ) to annexation and, above all, the continued will of the population of the endangered state are decisive for its nullity. Since Austria, according to these standards, did not offer any resistance after the “ Anschluss ” to National Socialist Germany in 1938, German constitutional law experts assume that its statehood was “extinguished” at that time. The same applies to Abyssinia after its defeat in the war against Italy in 1935/36 and the Baltic states in 1940 after their occupation by the Wehrmacht in World War II .

In contrast, effective resistance was offered in occupied Poland , for example , and Polish associations took part in combat operations against German soldiers, which is why the international community assumes that the Polish state will continue to exist from 1939 to 1945 and is not considered to be extinguished.

Resistance as a cultural theoretical term

Paul Willis , English sociologist and advocate of cultural theory, describes resistance as dissatisfaction with the everyday and prevailing conditions. He illustrates this using the example of male young people from the working class : The young people rebel against the living conditions that are perceived as unjust. The school is the institution that suggests in the supposedly classless society that working-class children can leave the working class if they try. But they reject school, rebel against the prevailing conditions and the prevailing ideologies. Her cultural framework denies that education brings prospects for workers, and her situation confirms this, she is experienced hopelessness. The young people do not attack the system as such, they do not demand equal opportunities, they do not fight to assert their long-term interests. Instead, they develop counter-strategies to affirm their situation, for example by enhancing their masculinity through sexism and racism and by rejecting the education system. So they settle into the ruling system with their originally resistant strategies. Their resistance becomes their own limitation - they learn nothing and do not change their situation.

Resistance in Philosophical Discourse

Michel Foucault: Resistance as a counterpoint to power

Michel Foucault declares resistance to be the opposite of power. Power relations can only exist through a variety of points of resistance; these are present in the power network both as opponents and as bases, as gateways or targets.

“That is why there is no one place of great refusal in relation to power - the soul of revolt, the focus of rebellions , the pure law of the revolutionary. Rather, there are individual resistances: possible, necessary, improbable, spontaneous, wild, lonely, coordinated, cringing, violent, irreconcilable, willing to compromise, interested or willing to sacrifice resistance that can only exist in the strategic field of power relations. [...] And just as the state is based on the institutional integration of power relations, so the strategic coding of the points of resistance can lead to revolution. "

Antonio Gramsci: Resistance as a Revolutionary Utopia

Antonio Gramsci describes resistance as a revolutionary utopia , which grows because it is carried into people's heads and into society by the subjects: as a struggle for hegemony in civil society , as centers of connection in the ensemble of their relationships. The basis for this is Gramsci's theory of consciously acting people, which he developed from Karl Marx 's theses on Feuerbach . From the interrelation between human consciousness and social practice, the individual enters into a participation in organisms of which he is actively aware. "Therefore, one can say that everyone becomes different, changes himself to the extent that he changes the totality of the relationships whose center of connection he is, whereby the environment is to be understood as the ensemble of relationships that each individual enters into."

Individuals acquire their identity through their actions, in that they move in, but also with their circumstances, accept the contradictions in them and locate themselves in relation to them. The capitalist society is permeated by hegemony, whereby a class succeeds in locating the individual in dependency relationships. This happens primarily not through coercion, but through a kind of social authority that binds the individuals in central structures and institutions and thus behaves in agreement with the prevailing order. The space of this consent is the supposedly extra-domineering sphere, the main function of which is to guarantee the consensus of the oppressed with the values ​​of the ruling class. This is civil society, which on the one hand has to maintain the balance of hegemony, in a constant reproduction of consent, and on the other hand it becomes a place of struggle for liberation.

The resistance, which is the struggle for hegemony, needs “the hearts and minds” of the individuals: The subjects are the outcome of change, based on the consciously acting human being. But this also means that individuals are dependent on collectivity in order to uncover contradictions in the processes of their actions and to develop the ability to criticize, in the sense that they are the connecting centers in the ensemble of their relationships.

Pierre Bourdieu: Resistance as a collective process

Pierre Bourdieu defined resistance in a very practical way: Resistance arises when the competitive struggles are overcome in favor of struggles that call the ruling order into question: through real, effectively mobilized forces, practical classes that begin to act collectively and publicly in the social field .

See also


The complexity of the problem of social and political resistance and its enormous importance for the development of the European legal system mean that a large number of books have appeared on this subject. This reflects the very extensive bibliography for an encyclopedia article.

  • de Benedictis, Angela (ed.): Knowledge, conscience and science in the law of resistance (16th – 18th century) , also under the Italian title: Sapere, coscienza e scienza nel diritto di resistenza (XVI – XVIII sec. ) (=  Studies on European Legal History , 165). Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-465-03280-2 .
  • Cardauns, Ludwig: The doctrine of the people's right of resistance to the legitimate authorities in Lutheranism and Calvinism of the 16th century (preface by Arthur Kaufmann). Darmstadt 1973 (first published in Bonn 1903).
  • Eberhard, Winfried: Monarchy and Resistance. On the formation of the class opposition in the ruling system of Ferdinand I in Bohemia . Munich 1985 (=  publications of the Collegium Carolinum , 54).
  • Friedeburg, Robert von (ed.): Right of resistance in the early modern times. Results and prospects of research in a German-British comparison . Berlin 2001 (=  Journal for Historical Research , Supplement 26), ISBN 3-428-10629-6 .
  • Kaufmann, Arthur: On disobedience to the authorities. Aspects of the right of resistance from ancient tyranny to the injustice state of our time. From suffering obedience to civil disobedience in the modern constitutional state . Heidelberg 1991.
  • Quilisch, Tobias: The right of resistance and the idea of ​​the religious covenant with Thomas Müntzer. At the same time a contribution to political theology . Berlin 1999 (=  contributions to political science , 113), ISBN 3-428-09717-3 .
  • Quin, Eckehard: Personal rights and right of resistance in the Catholic teaching of resistance in France and Spain around 1600 . Berlin 1999 (=  contributions to political science , 109), ISBN 3-428-09413-1 .
  • Scheible, Heinz (Ed.): The right of resistance as a problem of the German Protestants 1523–1546 . Gütersloh 1969 (=  texts on church and theological history , 10).
  • Suter, Andreas: Regional political cultures of protest and resistance in the late Middle Ages and the early modern period . In: Geschichte und Gesellschaft , 21 (1995), pp. 161-194.
  • Wolgast, Eike: The question of religion as a problem of the right of resistance in the 16th century . Heidelberg 1980 (=  meeting reports of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. Phil.-hist. Kl. 1980/9).
  • Kurt Wolzendorff : Constitutional law and natural law in the doctrine of the people's right to resist against illegal exercise of state authority . Breslau 1916 (=  Investigations on the German State and Legal History , 126).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Viktor Cathrein : Moral Philosophy. A scientific exposition of the moral, including the legal, order. 2 volumes, 5th, newly worked through edition. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1911, Volume 2, pp. 693-699 ( removal and self-defense ).
  2. Georg Dahm , Jost Delbrück , Rüdiger Wolfrum : Völkerrecht , Vol. I / 1: The basics. The subjects of international law , 2nd edition, de Gruyter, Berlin 1989, p. 143 f. (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  3. Oliver Dörr, The incorporation as a fact of state succession , Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1995, p. 345.
  4. Paul Willis: Fun in the resistance. Counterculture in the workers' school , Frankfurt am Main 1982.
  5. Michel Foucault: Sexuality and Truth , Vol. 1: The will to know . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1977, p. 117.
  6. ^ Antonio Gramsci, Philosophy of Practice. Prison booklets 10 u. 11, Hamburg 1995.