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Reciprocity and the State: A Liberal Theory of Legitimacy

Ekstrand, David (2012) Reciprocity and the State: A Liberal Theory of Legitimacy. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Under which circumstances is the state morally allowed to enact and uphold laws by the use of force against its citizens? This is the problem of legitimacy. In this thesis I develop and defend a theory of legitimacy based on reciprocity. The fundamental idea is that we should aim to establish a state which can be accepted by all reasonable people. Reasonable people are those who abide by the idea of reciprocity. I defend this theory, which I call the reciprocal theory of legitimacy, against rivalling theories, and argue that reasonable people can hold incompatible ideas about legitimacy. This means that we should not expect any state to be accepted by all reasonable people, and thus to be fully legitimate. The implications of this conclusion have not been fully explored in previous work. Drawing on a distinction proposed by A. John Simmons, I claim that while the state may not be legitimate, it may still be justified, since it is better for existing states to continue to function, rather than to cease to exist. This means that the fact that the state cannot be legitimate does not mean that the state should be abolished. Instead, I argue that we should aim to maximise legitimacy by identifying and removing particularly pressing causes of illegitimacy. In the final chapter, I identify some areas where political action may increase legitimacy: public reason, political participation, welfare, and trust.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: legitimacy, justification, reciprocity, reasonableness, John Rawls, public reason, authority, trust
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mr David Ekstrand
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2012 15:21
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2096

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