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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

This chapter examines the basics of political philosophy, focusing in particular on what makes the state legitimate, or what is the ideal state we should be striving for. It first considers the use of normative analysis by political philosophers — that is, they are concerned with asking how the state ought to be organized and how much freedom ought individuals be granted. It then discusses the issues of consent and democracy, social contract, and the general will, along with utilitarianism as an account of state legitimacy. It also explores liberalism and liberty in relation to the state, Marxism and communitarianism, the idea of a just state, and how the traditional state focus of political theory has been challenged by globalization. Finally, it describes the influence of anarchism on modern politics and the position of anarchists with respect to the ideal state.

Chapter

Richard Bellamy and Joseph Lacey

This chapter highlights the three main positions that have come to dominate the normative debate on the European Union: cosmopolitanism (premised on a social contract between individuals globally), statism (premised on a social contract between states), and, more recently, demoicracy (premised on a social contract between states and all their individual citizens). The main body of the chapter attempts to understand each of these normative perspectives, both as freestanding political theories and as they have been applied to the EU. Proponents of each view maintain that the EU embodies some of the principles that comprise their respective theories, but fall short in other regards. Using each of these three theories to evaluate the European response to the refugee crisis, which peaked in 2015, the authors of this chapter attempt to further illustrate the similarities and differences between them. Final reflections concern directions for future research on political theory and the EU.

Chapter

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

Camilla Boisen

This chapter examines Hugo Grotius' key political ideas. Grotius, one of the most prolific and erudite writers of the seventeenth century, sought to formulate a set of universal rights and duties that would secure peace by constraining states in their internal and external relations. Drawing on a wide range of philosophical and literary sources, including Roman law, ancient classics, theology, and poetry, Grotius rehabilitated the natural law in an attempt to achieve harmony in an increasingly splintered political environment. After providing a short biography of Grotius, the chapter analyses his views on natural law, natural rights, property rights, sociability, self-preservation, and social contracts. It also discusses Grotius' arguments regarding international order in the context of just war theory and punishment and concludes with an assessment of Grotius' legacy in the area of political thought.

Chapter

Jeremy Waldron

This chapter examines and defends the relevance of John Locke's writings as political philosophy. Locke's political philosophy continues to have an enormous impact on the framing and the pursuit of liberal ideas in modern political thought — ideas about social contract, government by consent, natural law, equality, individual rights, civil disobedience, and private property. The discussion and application of Locke's arguments is thus an indispensable feature of political philosophy as it is practised today. After providing a short biography of Locke, the chapter considers his views on equality and natural law, property, economy, and disagreement, as well as limited government, toleration, and the rule of law. It concludes with an assessment of Locke's legacy as a political thinker.

Chapter

This chapter examines the notion of liberal equality by considering John Rawls’s alternative to utilitarianism. In his A Theory of Justice, Rawls complains that political theory was caught between two extremes: utilitarianism on the one side, and what he calls ‘intuitionism’ on the other. The chapter presents Rawls’s ideas, first by discussing the two arguments he gives for his answer to the question of justice: the intuitive equality of opportunity argument and the social contract argument. It also analyses Ronald Dworkin’s views on equality of resources, focusing on his theory that involves the use of auctions, insurance schemes, free markets, and taxation. Finally, it explores the politics of liberal equality, arguing that liberals need to think seriously about adopting more radical politics.