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    Venezia, Luciano 2015. Hobbes on Legal Authority and Political Obligation.

    Venezia, Luciano 2015. Hobbes on Legal Authority and Political Obligation.



  • Christopher W. Morris (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 14 December 2011

State power is widely thought to be coercive. The view that governments must wield force or that their power is necessarily coercive is widespread in contemporary political thought. John Rawls is representative in claiming that (political power is always coercive power backed up by the government(s use of sanctions, for government alone has the authority to use force in upholding its laws.( This belief in the centrality of coercion and force plays an important but not well appreciated role in contemporary political thought. I wish to challenge this belief and the considerations that motivate it. States are not necessarily coercive or coercive (by definition.( Their claimed authority is prior to the force they wield. Legitimate states should need to resort to coercion and force much less than other states, and that fact seems unappreciated in contemporary political thought.

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Michael Blake , “Distributive Justice, State Coercion, and Autonomy,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 30, no. 3 (2002): 257–96

William A. Edmundson , Three Anarchical Fallacies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), chap. 6

John Austin , The Province of Jurisprudence Determined (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995 [1st ed. 1832, 5th ed. 1885]), Lecture II, 21–22

Frederick Schauer , “Was Austin Right After All? On the Role of Sanctions in a Theory of Law,” Ratio Juris vol. 23, no. 1 (2010): 121

Raz, Practical Reason and Norms (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999 [1975])

Nagel, “The Problem of Global Justice,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 33, no. 2 (2005): 113–47

Grant Lamond , “The Coerciveness of Law,” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 20 (2000): 3962

Coercion and the Nature of Law,” Legal Theory 7 (2001): 3557

Arthur Ripstein , “Authority and Coercion,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 32 (2004): 2

Arthur Ripstein , Force and Freedom: Kant's Legal and Political Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009)

Barry Weingast , “The Political Foundations of Democracy and the Rule of Law,” American Political Science Review 91, no. 2 (1997): 245–63

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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