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Citizen Duty and the Ethical Power of Communities: Mixed-Method Evidence from East Asia

  • Aram Hur

Why do citizens choose to comply in democracies, even when coercion is limited? Existing answers focus on contractual trust or expected payoffs. I show that a different pathway exists in the ethical pull of the nation. A large literature in political theory argues that special communities, such as the nation, can instill an ethical obligation to the collective welfare, even in the absence of formal rules. I argue that when the identities of one’s nation and the state are seen as closely linked, this national obligation is politicized towards the state and motivates a sense of citizen duty to comply. Through statistical modeling and a pair of experiments in South Korea versus Taiwan – two otherwise similar democracies that contrast in nation-state linkage – I show that this ethical pathway is likely real and highly contextual. The findings help us better understand the varied bases of citizen compliance in democracies.

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Postdoctoral Fellow, Wagner School of Public Service, New York University (email: I thank Christopher Achen, Mark Beissinger, Anthony Bertelli, Evan Lieberman, Prerna Singh, T. Y. Wang, Robert Wuthnow, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Eric Yu, Sufeng Cheng, and Jiasin Yu at National Chengchi University, Won-ho Park at Seoul National University, and Jisun Oh and Sungwon Hwang at the National Election Commission of South Korea made data collection possible. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at and online appendices are available at

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British Journal of Political Science
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Hur Dataset

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