Legitimate Authority Without Political Obligation

Posted: 18 Jun 2008  

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: 1998

Abstract

It is commonly supposed that citizens of a reasonably just state have a prima facie duty to obey its laws. In recent years, however, a number of influential political philosophers have concluded that there is no such duty. But how can the state be a legitimate authority if there is no general duty to obey its laws? This article is an attempt to explain how we can make sense of the idea of legitimate political authority without positing the existence of a general duty to obey the law. The explanation makes use of a distinction between laws of general application, on one hand, and on the other the particularized, directed efforts by state officials to channel and resolve disputes (including those arising from violations of the law). A state's legitimate authority entails a general duty to cooperate in the latter type of effort, rather than upon a dubious general duty to obey the law.

Keywords: legitimacy, authority, duty to obey

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., Legitimate Authority Without Political Obligation (1998). Law and Philosophy, Vol. 17, pp. 43-60, 1998. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1147387

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Urban Life Building, Room 402 140 Decatur Street
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-413-9167 (Phone)
404-413-9225 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.gsu.edu/wedmundson/

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
922