Consent and Political Legitimacy
Greene, Amanda. 2016. “Consent and Political Legitimacy.” Edited by David Sobel, Peter Vallentyne, and Steven Wall. Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy 2: 71–97.
Posted: 24 May 2014 Last revised: 24 Sep 2016
Date Written: October 12, 2015
Consent plays a leading role in many theories of political legitimacy. This paper addresses the topic of the legitimacy of the state, in the sense of having the appropriate standing to exercise power over its subjects. The paper argues that both the contractualist view (based on hypothetical consent) and the voluntarist view (based on actual consent) involve unacceptable idealizations. The paper then develops and defends the sovereignty conception, according to which a regime is legitimate insofar as it achieves actual quality consent to rule. Quality consent obtains when a subject consents to her state on the basis of a judgment of governance success, provided that the judgment does not conflict with the government’s minimal aim, i.e. basic security for all subjects. The paper argues that a state comes to be legitimate by governing in such a way as to be widely recognized as doing so successfully by its subjects.
Keywords: Legitimacy, Authority, Liberalism, Social Contract, Consent, Contractualism, Public Reason
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