Legitimacy as a Mere Moral Power? A Response to Applbaum

Diametros 33:120-137 (2012)
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Abstract

In a recent article, Arthur Applbaum contributes a new view—legitimacy as a moral power—to the debate over the concept of political legitimacy. Applbaum rejects competing views of legitimacy, in particular legitimacy as a claim-right to have the law obeyed, for mistakenly invoking substantive moral argument in the conceptual analysis, and concludes that “at the core of the concept—what legitimacy is” is only a Hohfeldian moral power. In this article, I contend that: (1) Applbaum’s view of legitimacy, when fully unfolded, refers to more than a mere moral power and should therefore be rejected even by his own standards; (2) Applbaum’s rejection of competing views of legitimacy ultimately relies on a claim that he does not successfully defend, namely, the claim that moral duties are of absolute rather than prima facie force.

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Jiafeng Zhu
East China Normal University

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