Recently, some scholars have highlighted a paradoxical phenomenon existing in democratic systems: Those people who show the greatest support for democracy are also those most willing to protest against the authority and to question it. However, if we consider the tasks of contemporary democratic citizenship in a social-psychological perspective, this apparent paradox becomes understandable. Obedience to authority may ensure the continuity of social and group life, but disobedience may be crucial in stopping the authority relationship from degenerating into an authoritarian one. Following Kelman and Hamilton's analysis of legitimacy dynamics, we consider how actions of disobedience may serve the defence of democracy. In particular, by considering the different ways in which people relate to the political system, the relevance of so-called value-oriented citizens in supporting democracy will be considered. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.