Corporate rebels cause irritation and thereby keep organizations alive. They act according to clear principles for the benefit of their organization as what and how it should be ideally. To this end, they repeatedly question the status quo and thus ultimately perform civil disobedience in the organization.
A good person is not always a good citizen.
Civil disobedience has a long tradition. Its origins go back to ancient times. Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” (originally published as “Resistance to Civil Government”), in which he explained why he stopped paying taxes in protest against the war on Mexico and against slavery. In doing so, he deliberately and publicly violated the law in order to highlight an injustice (founded with respect to a higher law) and to bring about a change through this non-violent public act of protest. Another example of an act of civil disobedience is the famous salt march of Mahatma Gandhi, who went to the sea with many fellow activists to collect salt and so publicly broke the salt monopoly of the British colonial rulers.
Civil disobedience is a kind of resistance within the existing system and order. It is explicitly not a rejection of the existing structures and does not aim at dismantling the existing system. Those who practice civil disobedience do not stand outside the order, but deliberately accept a punishment for their publicly displayed disobedience. But it is precisely through this readiness to make sacrifices that his resistance authentically becomes a matter of profound moral conviction. The honest citizen is therefore not characterized by absolute obedience (where this can lead to in the extreme, it is shown in our painful National Socialist history in Germany), but by what Jürgen Habermas calls a qualified obedience to the law and what necessarily includes resistance.
Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.
What applies to the citizen and the state on a large scale can be transferred to the employee and the organization on a small scale. In the most obvious form, by the fact that people naturally do not operate outside the law, even as employees of an organization (which is evident at the moment in the course of dealing with the diesel scandal at the VW Group). It is not so obvious, however, that the duty of civil disobedience is also the reason for the mandate of corporate rebels. They do not work against the organization, but their rule-breaking is always aimed at improving the organization. They identify themselves with the organization and the actual purpose of the organization, but not necessarily with all its incoherent rules or an organizational culture that is perceived as a hindrance. They identify themselves with this ideal of the organization so much that they consciously accept an immune reaction of the system and sanctions. Their dissenting thinking and different ways of working are therefore the decisive disturbance to protect an organization from complacency and inertia.
But if the law is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
Henry David Thoreau
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