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Associative Political Obligations

A. John Simmons

University of Virginia

February 16, 2009

It is claimed by philosophers as diverse as Burke, Walzer, Dworkin, and MacIntyre that our political obligations are best understood as "associative" or "communal" obligations -- that is, as obligations that require neither voluntary undertaking nor justification by "external" moral principles, but rather as "local" moral responsibilities whose normative weight derives entirely from their assignment by social practice. This paper identifies three primary lines of argument that appear to support such assertions: conceptual arguments, the arguments of nonvoluntarist contract theory, and communitarian arguments (which emphasize both an "identity thesis" and a "normative independence thesis"). However, each of these lines of argument fails to show that political obligations are associative obligations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

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Date posted: February 18, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Simmons, A. John, Associative Political Obligations (February 16, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1344435 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1344435

Contact Information

Alan Simmons (Contact Author)
University of Virginia ( email )
120 Cocke Hall
P.O. Box 400780
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States
434-924-6924 (Phone)
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