Political Theory

Political Obligation and State Legitimacy


This colloquium explored the problem of political obligation and state legitimacy, which are central problems in any perspective characterized by a serious commitment to individual liberty. Are citizens obligated to obey their government’s commands when failing to do so will not amount to violating other individuals’ rights? Are the putative good consequences of governance enough to generate a civic obligation to obey—and a right to the state to be obeyed? Can individual liberty extend to a right to “ignore the state,” as Herbert Spencer asserted?


Conference Readings

Copp, David. “The Idea of a Legitimate State.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 28, no. 1 (1999): 3-45.

Edmundson, William. Three Anarchical Fallacies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Murphey, Liam and Thomas Nagel, “Conclusion: Politics” In The Myth of Ownership, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. 15.

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1974.

Plato. Crito. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Charleston: Forgotten Books, 2008.

Rousseau, J. J. The Social Contract and The Discourses. Translated by G. D. H. Cole. New York: Everyman Library, 1993.

Simmons, A. John. On the Edge of Anarchy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Sophocles. Antigone. Mineola: Dover Thrift Editions, 1993.