Gilbert, Margaret. A Theory of Political Obligation: Membership, Commitment and the Bonds of Society
Publisher: Does one have special obligations to support the political institutions of one’s own country precisely because it is one’s own? In short, does one have political obligations? This book argues for an affirmative answer, construing one’s country as a political society of which one is a member, and a political society as a special type of social group. The obligations in question are not moral requirements derived from general moral principles. They come, rather, from one’s participation in a special kind of commitment: a joint commitment. This theory is referred to as the plural subject theory of political obligation since, by the author’s definition, those who are party to any joint commitment constitute a plural subject of some action in a broad sense of the term. Several alternative theories are compared and contrasted with plural subject theory, with a particular focus on the most famous — actual contract theory — according to which membership in a political society is a matter of participation in an agreement. The book offers plural subject accounts of both social rules and everyday agreements, and includes discussion of political authority and punishment.
Comment: Some chapters in Part 1 would work very nicely as introductory reading to the problem of political obligation. As the book progresses it homes in on the theory of social groups and Gilbert's theory of political obligation as joint commitment. As such, the later chapters are more suited to specialised readings.
Hampton, Jean. Political Philosophy
Publisher’s Note: Political philosophy, perhaps even more than other branches of philosophy, calls for constant renewal to reflect not just re-readings of the tradition but also the demands of current events. In this lively and readable survey, Jean Hampton has created a text for our time that does justice both to the great traditions of the field and to the newest developments. In a marvelous feat of synthesis, she links the classical tradition, the giants of the modern period, the dominant topics of the twentieth century, and the new questions and concerns that are just beginning to rewrite contemporary political philosophy.Hampton presents these traditions in an engaging and accessible manner, adding to them her own views and encouraging readers to critically examine a range of ideas and to reach their own conclusions. Of particular interest are the discussions of the contemporary liberalism-communitarianism debates, the revival of interest in issues of citizenship and nationality, and the way in which feminist concerns are integrated into all these discussions. Political Philosophy is the most modern text on the topic now available, the ideal guide to what is going on in the field. It will be welcomed by scholars and students in philosophy and political science, and it will serve as an introduction for readers from outside these fields.
Comment: Many of the chapters would make for good introductory readings to standard topics in political philosophy, including: social contract theories, political authority, distributive justice, liberalism vs communitarianism, nationalism.