Res Publica 21 (3): 291-307 (2015)

Merten Reglitz
University of Birmingham
In the contemporary philosophical literature, political legitimacy is often identified with a right to rule. However, this term is problematic. First, if we accept an interest theory of rights, it often remains unclear whose interests justify a right to rule : either the interest of the holders of this right to rule or the interests of those subject to the authority. And second, if we analyse the right to rule in terms of Wesley Hohfeld’s characterization of rights, we find disagreement among philosophers about what constitutes the conceptual core of political authority: a power-right or a claim-right to rule. In this paper I show that both of these are problematic for a number of reasons. First, if we think that it is only the interests of the holders of a right to rule that justify the possession of authority, the conceptual core of authority must consist in a claim-right. However, this understanding of authority biases our thinking about legitimacy in favor of democratic exercises of power. Second, if we hold such a decisively democratic view of legitimacy, we confront an impasse with respect to addressing global collective action problems. Although it is clear that political authority is necessary or useful for solving these issues, it is doubtful that we can establish global institutions that are democratically authorized anytime soon. The paper suggests an alternative ‘Power-Right to Command View’ of political legitimacy that avoids the democratic bias and allows for thinking about solutions to global problems via global service authorities.
Keywords Authority  Legitimacy  Hohfeld  Democracy  Global justice
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-015-9267-0
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References found in this work BETA

The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Liberalism Without Perfection.Jonathan Quong - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
The Problem of Global Justice.Thomas Nagel - 2005 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (2):113-147.

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Citations of this work BETA

Legitimacy Beyond the State: Institutional Purposes and Contextual Constraints.N. P. Adams, Antoinette Scherz & Cord Schmelzle - 2020 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 23 (3):281-291.
On the Edge of Anarchism: A Realist Critique of Philosophical Anarchism.Zoltán Gábor Szűcs - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy:1-24.
Legitimacy as the Right to Function.Sören Hilbrich - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy:1-22.

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