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Consent and its Cousins

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 Last revised: 2 May 2011

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: 2011


Consent theories of political obligation draw upon the unique powers consent exhibits in everyday dealings, but they are frustrated by the "problem of massive nonconsent." Expansions of what is counted as consent, such as tacit or hypothetical consent, have seemed untrue to the core concept of giving willing consent. David Estlund proposes a novel conception, "normative consent," to address the problem of massive nonconsent while being true to "the idiom of consent." This comment details consent’s virtues and shows that consent theories cannot claim enough of them to vindicate political obligation.

Keywords: political obligation, consent, normative consent, nonconsent, obligation

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., Consent and its Cousins (2011). Ethics, Vol. 121, 2011; Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-08. Available at SSRN:

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
85 Park Place NE
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-413-9167 (Phone)
404-413-9225 (Fax)


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