Political Legitimacy <sup>1</sup>

Allen Buchanan

in Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination

Published in print August 2003 | ISBN: 9780198295358
Published online April 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191600982 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Political Theory

 Political Legitimacy  1

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This second part of the book turns to an examination of the conditions under which it is morally justifiable to exercise political power to enforce international law in the pursuit of justice. Ch. 5 develops a justice‐based conception of political legitimacy, where “political legitimacy” is defined as follows: An entity has political legitimacy if and only if it is morally justified in exercising political power, where the exercise of political power may, in turn, be defined as the (credible) attempt to achieve supremacy in the making, application, and enforcement of laws within a jurisdiction. It is argued that an entity that exercises political power is morally justified in doing so only if it meets a minimal standard of justice, understood as the protection of basic human rights. The conception of political legitimacy offered is meant to be perfectly general, and applies to any entity that wields political power, whether at the state, regional, or international level; it is used again in Chs 6–8. The eight sections of the chapter are: I. Political Legitimacy and the Morality of Political Power; The Irrelevance of the Idea that We Owe Compliance to the Government; III. Explaining the Preoccupation with the Government's Right to be Obeyed; IV. Toward a Theory of Political Legitimacy; V. Why Should Some Persons Rather than Others Wield Political Power?; VI. Democracy and Mutual Obligations among Citizens; and VIII. Conclusions.

Keywords: Compliance; Democracy; exercise of political power; Government; Government's Right to be Obeyed; human rights; international law; international law enforcement; justice; law enforcement; legitimacy; moral justification; Morality; Mutual Obligation; political legitimacy; political power

Chapter.  11105 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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