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Arthur Applbaum

Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values
Office Address
79 John F. Kennedy St. Rubenstein Bldg 238
Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Legitimacy without the Duty to Obey." Philosophy & Public Affairs 38.3 (Summer 2010): 215-239.


This article aims to make conceptual room for a view about political legitimacy called the power-liability account. The view claims that political legitimacy is a form of normative power that entails moral liability, but not necessarily a moral claim-right that entails moral duty. The power-liability account supports appealing interpretations of justified civil disobedience in the face of legitimate but unjust law at home and of justified human rights interventions that violate legitimate international law abroad. I argue here only for the conceptual possibility of this view, not for its normative correctness. I believe that the power-liability view indeed is correct, but it often is thought that the view not only is false but also incoherent. Many hold that entailed duty and immunity are built into the meaning of the concept of political legitimacy. My task is to loosen these conceptual strictures.