Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Beyond political obligation: Reconceptualizing the individual's relationship to political institutions
by Hughes, Thomas Michael, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2009, 234; 3371649
Abstract (Summary)

Political obligation has been the dominant concept to explain individual obedience to political institutions. It claims that a free individual has performed some voluntary act which generate a new set of moral requirements to support and comply with a particular set of political institutions. However the concept of political obligation has come under successful attack, rendering all existing formulations inadequate. This project explicitly abandons the language of political obligation, and presents an understanding political institutions that are not obligatory. I begin by reviewing the recent defenses of political obligation, and show that none consider all of the relevant critiques that have been used to reject the political obligation narrative. After the inadequacy of the current formulations has been shown, I return to the early modern writings on political obligation to consider the political relations of individuals who had no political obligations: foreigners. Once it has been shown that social cooperation with foreigners is possible without political obligations, I utilize Thoreau to show how citizens might behave as foreigners, through his formulation of sojourning. While the relations of foreigners and sojourners do much to explain social cooperation without political obligation, there remains a need to reconceptualize the law. To do this, I suggest that we understand the law not as a system of summary rules, but rather as what Rawls calls rules of practice. Finally, in the absence of political obligation, Hobbes is utilized to show that the state’s need to use coercive force can be based on the right of war, rather than the right of punishment derived from a set of special obligations. It is ultimately argued that political obligation is unnecessary as a concept to explain an individual’s relationship to particular political institutions, and that we should move our language beyond political obligation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Digeser, P. E.
Commitee: Barvosa, Edwina, Norris, Andrew
School: University of California, Santa Barbara
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Political science
Keywords: Foreigners, Hobbes, Thomas, Obligation, Politics, Rawls, John, Thoreau, Henry David
Publication Number: 3371649
ISBN: 978-1-109-32957-5
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