The phrase, ‘political obligation’, is far more popular in English than in other European languages. Whether this may be due to historical circumstances, or to a peculiar bent of the English mind, is a fascinating question; but it is not the one which I propose to discuss here today. I am mentioning it only to explain the choice of my subject, a subject which would probably sound rather uncommon to an Italian audience, but which, I am sure, has a familiar ring to English ears. My subject, I would like to emphasise, is the nature of political obligation; my approach will be analytical rather than historical; and indeed, let me say at once that this lecture is a kind of examen de conscience in which I am myself involved, since I feel personally responsible for having introduced the phrase into my own native language, and for having used it during a life-time as if its meaning were self-evident, without ever raising the questions which I want to raise today.
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