Rawls and "Duty-Based" Accounts of Political Obligation

APA Newsletter on Law and Philosophy 99 (1):67-71 (1999)
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Abstract

Rawls's theory of political obligation attempts to avoid the obvious flaws of a Lockean consent model. Rawls rejects a requirement of consent for two reasons: First, the consent requirement of Locke’s theory was intended to ensure that the liberty and equality of the contractors was respected, but this end is better achieved by the principles chosen in the original position, which order the basic structure of a society into which citizens are born. Second, "basing our political ties upon a principle of obligation would complicate the assurance problem." Instead, Rawls offers a duty-based account, whereby we are duty-bound to support and comply with just institutions that apply to us. A. John Simmons argues that Rawls cannot meet the particularity requirement of establishing political obligation to only one state. I assess the response that this requirement can be met by the political constructivist element of Rawls's theory. I conclude that there are fatal flaws in this response

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Simon Cushing
University of Michigan - Flint

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