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Jonathan Parry (LSE): “The Truth in Political Voluntarism”
10 March 2020, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Abstract: When are political regimes permitted to coercively rule their subjects? And when do subjects have moral obligations to support and obey their regimes? One influential strain of thought – political voluntarism – holds that political legitimacy is grounded in the exercise of self-regarding normative powers (consent and promise) on the part of subjects. Despite its attractive emphasis on individual self-sovereignty, this view is widely held to be hopeless. A popular alternative – political functionalism – grounds political legitimacy on the successful performance of morally valuable tasks. In this talk I outline a hybrid view which aims to combine the attractive features of both voluntarism and functionalism. The view that I propose takes coercive rule and political obligations to be ultimately justified by appeal to the value of a regime’s functioning (its contribution to individual wellbeing in particular), but it understands this value to be sensitive to the exercise of self-regarding normative powers on the part of each subject, thus integrating a concern for individual self-sovereignty.