Mob justice and mob rule

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The termsmob justice andmob rule came into use in the 1800s, though the term mob rule is used more frequently. We will examine the definitions of the terms mob justice andmob rule, where the idea of this phenomenon was first described, and some examples of the use of these terms in sentences.

Mob justice andmob rule refer to a type of majority rule that is a form of anarchy. In a mob justice ormob rule incident, a crowd gathers, sometimes spontaneously, but not always, in order to force a certain action by appointed or elected officials. Mob justice andmob rule almost always ends in chaos, violent acts and lawlessness in conduct. A situation in which mobs gather in the streets usually points to a problem with the justice system or an abuse of guaranteed liberties for a citizen. Politics, corruption in governing, or a moral injustice may bring out masses of angry people in protest. While peaceful protesters within a legal system may bring judicial reform and legislative change, if an institution or government refuses to amend the manner in which it is ruling, then more extreme measures must be taken. Mob justice andmob rule have negative connotations, as policing such a gathering is difficult, and the enforcement of rules and holding lawbreakers accountable during a crisis may be impossible. However, the ruling legislature and judiciary in a country, and even one that labors under a dictatorship, must understand that victims of that system may someday rise against such tyranny and demand fairness and equality. Mob justice andmob rule may allow radical reformers to run roughshod over others, or it may begin a revolution. While democracy is a method of governing by the majority, it happens within a framework of rules, regulations and customs. In a democracy, the will of the majority carries the day, but the rights of the minority are enforced. In mob justice ormob rule, the opinion of the strongest prevails.

The technical term for mob justice andmob rule is ochlocracy, a term coined by the Greek historian Polybius in the second century B.C. In an ochlocracy, the government is run at the whim of the mob. Clever politicians know how to sway the mob in this situation. For the most part, ancient Rome was an ochlocracy, with politicians and office-holders frequently intimidated by the will of the mob. Just as often, the will of the mob was manipulated by those in power. The word mob to mean the rabble first appeared in the 1600s. The word mobocracy came into use in the 1700s, and the terms mob justice andmob rule came into use in the early 1800s.


For many nights over the past month, Manipur has been witnessing torch light processions in the valley districts, with the mostly women marchers demanding among other things an end to mob violence directed at those accused of crimes. (The Hindu)

A man was killed in a violent mob justice incident at an informal settlement near Laudium on Thursday. (The Centurion Rekord)

It takes a lot of chutzpah for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to disparage Democrats as behaving with “mob rule.” (The Poughkeepsie Journal)

The Founders were rightly skeptical of mass democracy, which they saw as synonymous with mob rule. (USA Today)

It’s also exactly what happens when one side ignores facts and the rule of law for the mob rule of the feelings and emotions of the day. (The Joplin Globe)