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Title: A rationalist theory of legitimacy
Author: Brinkmann, Matthias
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 8260
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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In this thesis, I argue for rationalism, the claim that political legitimacy should be distributed such that justice is promoted best. In chapter 1, I define legitimacy as the permission to rule. I deny that political institutions generally enjoy authority, which is the moral power to directly impose duties on others. I then describe how legitimate political institutions without authority are possible in principle. In the second chapter, I outline a major problem for rationalism. If individuals have strong, moral rights, then it seems that political institutions cannot legitimately operate without their subjects' consent. I describe the key assumptions in this argument, and discuss a series of unconvincing proposals in the literature to escape it. In chapter 3, I argue that we can solve the problem if we look at theories of the moral justification of rights. There are two major such theories, the interest theory and the status theory. I outline the interest theory, and argue that it allows for non-consensual but legitimate political institutions. In chapter 4, I describe a Kantian claim about the nature of rights, according to which our rights are fully realised only if there are political institutions. If we accept this thought, then non-consensual political institutions can be legitimate on the status theory as well. In chapter 5, I outline what it means to promote-rather than respect-justice, and argue that the promotion of justice enjoys primacy over other values. At first sight, rationalism appears to have very radical implications, given that it asks us to base legitimacy on justice. In chapter 6, I argue that this impression is mistaken. We should often pursue justice indirectly, for example, through methods which focus on legal validity or democratic procedure rather than justice.
Supervisor: Green, Leslie ; Waldron, Jeremy ; Bader, Ralf Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy ; Political science--Philosophy ; Anarchism ; Liberalism ; Authority ; Legitimacy ; Rights