Minimal Loyalty: “Thou Shalt Not Betray Me”

George P. Fletcher

in Loyalty

Published in print August 1995 | ISBN: 9780195098327
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199852901 | DOI:
Minimal Loyalty: “Thou Shalt Not Betray Me”

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This chapter traces the evolution of the definition of treason from 14th century English law to the American Constitution and reviews important legal cases of the 20th century. The author concludes that treason requires a breach of loyalty and does not necessarily include the infliction of harm. The necessary connection between overt action and inner intention are the core of the discussion of treason in Western thought. Protection, self recognition and gratitude rather than an implied contract create loyalty to the state. The state may demand loyalty from those who stand in an ongoing relationship of interdependence and expected gratitude with the society the state represents. However, communities demanding loyalty are not always contiguous with political authority. Increasing demands for loyalty within small units of group identification create a conflict of loyalties that challenges the state's demand for exclusive loyalty.

Keywords: betrayal; treason; espionage; overt action; loyalty; inner intention; minimum loyalty

Chapter.  7944 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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