Show Summary Details
Issues in Political Theory

Issues in Political Theory (4th edn)

Catriona McKinnon, Robert Jubb, and Patrick Tomlin
Page of

Printed from Oxford Politics Trove. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 29 September 2023

p. 61. Political obligationlocked

p. 61. Political obligationlocked

  • Keith Hyams


This chapter discusses the justifications for political obligation. The most important historical justification for political obligation is what is often called consent theory or contract theory. Consent theorists claim that we should obey the law because we have consented to do so. Meanwhile, the theorist H. L. A. Hart argues that if we accept a benefit, then it is only fair that we should reciprocate and give something back; if we enjoy the protection of police and armies, if we use roads, hospitals, schools, and other government-run services, then we should reciprocate by obeying the law. Other theorists argue that political obligation is something that we are bound by simply for being a member of a political community. If we cannot justify an obligation to obey the law, then we may have to adopt some form of philosophical anarchism — the view that we have no obligation to obey the law.

You do not currently have access to this chapter

Sign in

Please sign in to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription