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Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

1. Political obligation  

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.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

2. Justifying the State  

This chapter examines consent theory and utilitarian theory, along with some other approaches to the moral defence of the state. Before deciding how best to justify the state, the chapter explains what a state is. It considers different types of state, from liberal democracies to dictatorships, benign or tyrannical, based on military rule, a monarchical family line, or party membership. Some states promote the free market, while others attempt collective forms of production and distribution. The chapter proceeds by discussing the goal of justifying the state: to show that there are universal political obligations. It then explores a number of defences of political obligation based on social contract, utilitarianism, and the principle of fairness.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

2. Justifying The State  

This chapter examines consent theory and utilitarian theory, along with some other approaches to the moral defence of the state. Before deciding how best to justify the state, the chapter explains what a state is. It considers different types of state, from liberal democracies to dictatorships, benign or tyrannical, based on military rule, a monarchical family line, or party membership. Some states promote the free market, while others attempt collective forms of production and distribution. The chapter proceeds by discussing the goal of justifying the state: to show that there are universal political obligations. It then explores a number of defences of political obligation based on social contract, utilitarianism, and the principle of fairness.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

12. Hobbes  

Deborah Baumgold

This chapter examines Thomas Hobbes's key political ideas. After providing a short biography of Hobbes, the chapter traces the development of his political theory as articulated in the Leviathan. In particular, it considers whether Hobbism rests on the assumption of egoism and whether Hobbes's theory depends on the idea of a social contract. It also describes the sequential composition of the three versions of Hobbes's theory and shows that his basic assumption about human nature is a form of solipsism. According to Hobbes, our thinking is necessarily self-referential, which need not be equivalent to holding that we are necessarily self-interested (egoistic). The chapter concludes with a discussion of Hobbesian contractarianism, agency, and authorization as well as three strands of contractarian reasoning to illustrate the importance of the idea of consent in Hobbes's political arguments.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

9. Marsiglio of Padua  

Cary J. Nederman

This chapter examines Marsiglio of Padua's political theory, tracing it to his opposition to the pope's interference in secular political affairs, especially Italy and the Holy Roman Empire. Marsiglio formulates theoretical principles to explain the origins and nature of the political community that depend upon a strict distinction between the temporal and spiritual realms. For Marsiglio, government and law exist in order to support the civil peace. After providing a short biography of Marsiglio, the chapter analyses his views on peace, conciliarism, consent, and ecclesiology. It also considers Marsiglio's claim that all secular governments should oppose the ecclesiastical hierarchy, that political society arises from infirmities of human nature, and that citizenship derives from all vital functions in society.