Realist workshop: New perspectives on political obligation

   2022. április 29. 1:00 - 2022. április 29. 17:00

online workshop 

at Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Fives, Allyn (NUI Galway): Democratic Deference: Deliberative Democracy and the Moral Problem of Authority

Authority involves deference, as an authoritative directive is a content-independent and second-order exclusionary reason: it is a reason to act regardless of the quality of the action and regardless of the weight of the reasons not to act in this way. The so-called moral problem of authority is the requirement to address the charge that authority, thus understood, is incompatible with rationality and autonomy. For deliberative democrats, authority can be legitimate only in a democracy, and this is because only democratic rule manifests respect for freely exercised rationality. If authority is legitimate only insofar as it better ensures conformity with reason, it follows that authoritative directives must be shown to have a certain rational content to have legitimacy. However, this inadvertently turns an authoritative directive into a content-dependent first-order reason. Deliberative democracy therefore does not account for the mode of operation of an authoritative directive, and as a result it fails adequately to address the moral problem of authority.  

Fossen, Thomas (Leiden University):  Political Obligation, Membership, and the Practical Point of View

Associative theories of political obligation purport to ground political obligations in membership of a polity. I argue, contra associativism, that the problem of political obligation cannot be resolved in terms of who you are (politically), because your political identity is itself at issue when political obligations are in question. Political membership is far more problematic, both as a fact and as a concept, than associativists make it out to be. From a practical point of view, membership is part of the problem, not the solution to the problem of political obligation. Contrary to familiar criticisms of associativism, the upshot of my critique is not to insist that political obligations must be grounded in something beyond mere membership, but rather to call into question this demand for solid ground and draw attention to the ambiguous existence of our relationships, and to the role of practical judgment in sustaining or subverting them.

Szűcs, Zoltán Gábor (Eötvös Loránd University - CSS, Budapest): A realist membership account of political obligation: broadly Williamsian, not Hortonian
The ambition of this paper is to explain how exactly membership in a polity can ground political obligation. First, the account proposed meets three criteria of a satisfactory account of political obligation (particularity, generality, clear moral ground) and accepts the correlativity thesis. Second, it also satisfies the methodological desideratum of a realist account by offering an ethics-based alternative to the classical morality-based accounts of political obligation. Third, it satisfies the substantive desideratum of a realist account by showing that membership in a polity is constituted in a genuinely political way by meeting certain criteria of having genuinely political relations (a Basic Legitimation Demand and a Basic Obliging Demand) and by meeting them in a way that distinguishes polities (showing temporal persistence, a territorially limited scope, a comprehensiveness of authority) from other genuinely political relations. Fourth, it is shown that this account, albeit sharing certain characteristics with Horton's associative theory, is more minimalist than Horton's communitarian account and offers moral plausible grounds for political obligation than his communitarian theory. If this account is right then Hortonian identification is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of political obligation.  

Ujlaki, Anna (CSS, Budapest): Why Do We Need a Feminist Theory of Political Obligation (If We Need It At All)?

Theories of political obligation offer justifications for our general obligation to obey the law on diverse grounds. Feminist authors, however, such as Nancy Hirschmann or Carole Pateman, approach the problem of political obligation from a slightly different angle. They criticize the entire liberal enterprise with its concepts of abstract individualism and voluntarism for being incapable of truly addressing the obligations of those who are regarded to encounter the political world in a distinct way, predominantly, women. I argue that, in face of some recent global challenges, such as the migration crisis and the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the subsequent attention towards particular experiences of noncitizens, a feminist perspective gains importance in addressing the nature of political obligations. In doing so, I discuss the advantages and limitations of existing feminist approaches toward political obligation, authority, and legitimacy.