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  • Cited by 305
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
December 2009
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Book description

Democratic governments are able to elicit, legally and legitimately, both money and men from their populations. Certainly there is tax evasion, draft evasion, and even outright resistance; yet to a remarkable extent citizens acquiesce and even actively consent to the demands of governments, well beyond the point explicable by coercion. This is a puzzle for social scientists, particularly those who believe that individuals are self-interested, rational actors who calculate only the private egoistic costs and benefits of possible choices. The provisions of collective good should never justify a quasi-voluntary tax payment and the benefits of a war could not possibly exceed the cost of dying. This book explains the institutionalization of policy in response to anticipated and actual citizen behaviour and the conditions under which citizens give, refuse and withdraw their consent. Professor Levi claims that citizens' consent is contingent upon the perceived fairness of both the government and of other citizens. Most citizens of democracies, most of the time, are more likely to give their consent if they believe that government actors and other citizens are behaving fairly toward them.


"This book is an exemplary piece of political theory. The book should be mandatory reading for political theorists and philosophers who worry about consent, about democracy, about the motivating force of ethical commitments in politics, and about the logic of social explanation." James Johnson, Ethics

"...Levi's study provides substantial and valuable information on the evolution of conscription policies and reactions to these policies in a number of interesting cases. Her model also provides a thought-provoking integration of the concept of fairness with more standard rational choice theory, contributing important insights to how democracy works." Deborah L. Norden, Political Science Quarterly

"Levi astutely analyzes resistance to and compliance with calls to military service, a quintessential case in which individuals face the choice of bearing large costs on behalf of benefits they will share little difference. In the process, without ever quite saying so, she batters the postulate of universal self-interest that undergirds so much of rational choice argument in political science." Comparative Politics

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