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Chambers, Clare, and Phil Parvin. Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction

2012, Hodder & Stoughton

Publisher’s Note: Written by Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers, who are current political philosophy lecturers and leading researchers, Political Philosophy – The Essentials is designed to give you everything you need to succeed, all in one place. It covers the key areas that students are expected to be confident in, outlining the basics in clear jargon-free English, and then providing added-value features like summaries of key thinkers, and even lists of questions you might be asked in your seminar or exam. The book’s structure follows that of most university courses on political philosophy, by looking at the essential concepts within political philosophy (freedom, equality, power, democracy, rights, the state, political obligation), and then looking at the ways in which political philosophers have used these fundamental concepts in order to tackle a range of normative political questions such as whether the state has a responsibility to alleviate inequalities, and what interest liberal and democratic states should take in the cultural or religious beliefs of citizens.

Comment: 'Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers have produced a state of the art textbook, which provides students with a comprehensive and bang up-to-date introduction to contemporary political philosophy. Topics are introduced in a clear and eminently readable fashion, using accessible real world examples whilst drawing on sophisticated scholarly literature. There is no comparable book which covers such a wide range of topics in such a student-friendly manner.' (Dr Daniel Butt, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Bristol.) 'A lively, accessible and engaging read. Comprehensive and well organized, it provides an updated account of key concepts in contemporary political philosophy, and highlights their relevance to political life in the 21st century. A valuable book for anyone taking their first steps in the world of political philosophy, or anyone who seeks to understand the normative challenges faced by our society today.' (Dr Avia Pasternak, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Essex.) 'Written in a clear and accessible style, it is an engaging introduction for those who are new to political philosophy and wish to think through some of its most important questions. In addition to offering outlines of key arguments, each chapter also contains a summary of main concepts, self-test questions, a wonderful selection of quotations and some attention-grabbing 'nuggets'' (Dr Zosia Stemplowska, University Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Oxford)

Gilbert, Margaret, and . A Theory of Political Obligation: Membership, Commitment and the Bonds of Society

2008, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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.

Pitkin, Hanna, and . Obligation and Consent – I

1965, The American Political Science Review 59, December: 990-999.

Introduction: One might suppose that if political theorists are by now clear about anything at all, they should be clear about the problem of political obligation and the solution to it most commonly offered, the doctrine of consent. The greatest modern political theorists took up this problem and formulated this answer. The resulting theories are deeply imbedded in our American political tradition; as a consequence we are al- ready taught a sort of rudimentary consent theory in high school. And yet I want to suggest that we are not even now clear on what “the problem of political obligation” is, what sorts of “answers” are appropriate to it, what the con- sent answer really says, or whether it is a satis- factory answer. This essay is designed to point up the extent of our confusion, to explore some of the ground anew as best it can, and to invite further effort by others. That such effort is worthwhile, that such political theory is still worth considering and that it can be made genuinely relevant to our world, are the assump- tions on which this essay rests and the larger message it is meant to convey

Comment: Still a good introduction to the topic of political obligation and does a nice job of distinguishing some of the main questions within that topic. Very thorough discussion of Locke. The third section on Tussman is a bit dated, but does discuss some of the issues surrounding political obligation and children and adults who are not fully competent.

Pitkin, Hanna, and . Obligation and Consent – II

1966, The American Political Science Review 60, March: 39-52.

Introduction: [The doctrine of “hypothetical consent”] teaches that your obligation depends not on any actual act of consenting, past or present, by yourself or your fellow-citizens, but on the character of the government. If it is a good, just government doing what a government should, then you must obey it; if it is a tyrannical, unjust government trying to do what no government may, then you have no such obligation. Or to put it another way, your obligation depends not on whether you have consented but on whether the government is such that you ought to consent to it, whether its actions are in accord with the authority a hypothetical group of rational men in a hypothetical state of nature would have (had) to give to any government they were founding. Having shown how this formulation emerges from Locke’s and Tussman’s ideas, I want now to defend it as a valid response to what troubles us about political obligation, and as a response more consonant than most with the moral realities of human decisions about obedience and resistance. At the same time the discussion should also demonstrate how many different or even conflicting things that one might want to call “consent” continue to be relevant – a fact which may help to explain the tenacity of traditional consent theory in the face of its manifest difficulties. Such a defense and demonstration, with detailed attention to such decisions, are difficult; the discussion from here on will be more speculative, and will raise more questions than it answers.

Comment: Largely superseded by later work (see, for instance, Stark's 'Hypothetical Consent and Justification'), but still an interesting exploration of hypothetical consent and legitimate authority, as well as offering further critique of actual consent theories of political obligation. Would make for good further reading or an option for anyone attracted to more of a history of philosophy approach.

Stark, Cynthia A., and . Hypothetical Consent and Justification

2000, Journal of Philosophy 97 (6): 313-334.

Introduction: The social-contract tradition in moral and political thought can be loosely characterized as an approach to justification based on the idea of rational agreement. This tradition contains a variety of theories that are put to a number of uses. My exclusive focus here will be contract views that rely upon hypothetical, as opposed to actual, consent. My main objective is to defend hypothetical-consent theories against what I call the standard indictment: the claim that hypothetical consent cannot give rise to obligation. I begin by explaining the standard indictment in more detail; next, I argue that the standard indictment does not apply to moral, as contrasted with, political contractarianism; finally, I argue that, on a certain understanding of the relation between political legitimacy and political obligation, the standard indictment does not count against political contractarianism.

Comment: Defends the significance of hypothetical consent as the standard of justification appropriate for establishing moral obligation in a broadly constructivist view. Very useful as specialised or further reading on moral and political obligation.