Political Philosophy

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Political Philosophy



    Jean Hampton


    Dimensions of Philosophy Series

    All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Copyright ? 1997 by Westview Press, A Member of the Perseus Books Group Published in 1997 in the United States of America by Westview Press, 5500 Central Avenue, Boulder, Colorado 80301-2877, and in the United Kingdom by Westview Press, 12 Hid's Copse Road, Cumnor Hill, Oxford OX2 9JJ

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Hampton, Jean.

    Political philosophy / Jean Hampton.

    p. cm (Dimensions of philosophy series)

    Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index.

    ISBN 0-8133-0857-7 (hc) ISBN 0-8133-0858-5 (pb)

    1. Political sciencePhilosophy. I. Title. II. Series.

    JA71.H275 1997




    The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1984. Contents

     Foreword ix

     Acknowledgments xi

     Introduction xiii


     The Divine Authority Theory, 6

     Natural Subordination, 10

     Authority from the Good, 23

     Consent-Based Theories of Authority, 28

     Further Reading, 34

     Notes, 35


     Ancient and Medieval Contractarian Ideas, 40

     Hobbes, 41

     Problems with Hobbes's Alienation Social Contract Argument, 49

     Locke, 53

     Problems with Locke's Agency Social Contract Argument, 56

     Further Reading, 67

     Notes, 68


     Why Do We Need a State? 71

     Political Authority, 73

     The Governing Convention, 78

     Agency and Mastery, 86

     Consent, 94


     Political Authority, 97

     Solving the Paradox of Being Governed, 101

     Modern Democracies, 104

     Summary and Further Questions, 112

     Further Reading, 114

     Notes, 114


     Utilitarianism, 123

     Rawls's Theory of Justice, 133

     Libertarianism, 144

     Egalitarianism, 153

     Are We Too Late? 159

     Further Reading, 164

     Notes, 165


    THEORY 169

     Liberalism, 170

     Communitarianism, 182

     The Liberals Strike Back, 185

     The Attempt to Construct a New "Postliberal" Political Theory, 191

     Further Reading, 209

     Notes, 210


     Two Conceptions of Belonging, 219

     Immigration, Nationalism, and Social Identity, 230

     Liberalism and Community, 237

     Multiculturalism, 244

     Secession in Consent-Based States, 246

     Further Reading, 249

     Notes, 249

     EPILOGUE 254

     Bibliography 256

     About the Book and Author 264

     Index 265



    Jean Hampton died suddenly and unexpectedly on April 2, 1996. The manuscript of this book was complete and undergoing copyediting at the time of her death. The final stages of copyediting were completed later. This work involved only minor corrections and stylistic modifications, which in no way affected either the arguments or the conclusions of the book. And so, tragically, this volume represents the author's own last words on its topics. If these should both prepare and inspire her readers to enter into the debate to which she refers in her epilogue, they will not have been written in vain.

    Richard Healey

    Tucson, Arizona



    Books are sufficiently difficult to write that their authors succeed only when they get help, and I have a number of people to whom I owe thanks for their help.

    For his patience, support, and insightful comments during the (overly long) period in which this book was being written, I am grateful to Westview's philosophy editor, Spencer Carr, who refused to despair of the book's completion and who has been unfailingly encouraging. For their superb work in helping me to research various issues explored in this book, and for their excellent comments, criticisms, and discussions of many of the issues I raise in this book, I wish to thank Ken O'Day and Cindy Holder. I am also indebted to Sarah Harding for her work in researching citizenship and immigration policy, discussed in Chapter 6. For their comments, criticisms, and reactions to the book's arguments, I thank Julia Annas, Jules Coleman, Linda Hirshman, Christopher Morris, and an anonymous reader of Westview Press. I am also indebted to audiences at Pomona College, Occidental College, and the University of Notre Dame, where I presented portions of this book for discussions of some of its arguments. Finally, I am grateful to the students in my political theory and feminist theory

    classes at the University of Arizona, who provided "test markets" for parts of the book (and whose complaints were often heeded, albeit perhaps not as often as they would have liked). This book has been written during the tenure of a number of fellowships ; I wish to thank the American Council of Learned Societies, the Pew Foundation (and in particular their Evangelical Scholars Program), and the National Endowment for the Humanities for grants I received while I worked on this book, which enabled me to secure the research time necessary for its completion. I also wish to thank the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University for generously supporting my research during the summer of 1993. As always, I owe a great debt of gratitude to my husband, Richard Healey, and my son, Andrew Hampton-Healey, not only for their love


    and forbearance as the book was being written but also for their interesting discussions with me about many of the book's issues and for the many times they successfully and pleasantly distracted me from my labors on it in order to keep me from working too hard. Finally, my thanks to Bradley, Gracie, Rosie, Samantha, and Ashley. This book is for them

    just for the fun of it.

    Jean Hampton

    Tucson, Arizona



    Political philosophy is about political societieswhat they are, which forms can be justified,

    and what they should do. Political philosophers don't focus on the day-to-day politics of a state, nor are they primarily interested in understanding any particular institution in existing states: The task of political philosophy is not any surface description of particular political societies. Instead, the political philosopher wants to understand at the deepest level the foundations of states and their ethical justification. What does a society have to be like in order to be a political society? How do political societies arise? Why should they be considered morally legitimate? How do you tell a good political society from a bad one? How are people in these societies bound together? These questions are the business of political philosophers, and answers to them cannot be found simply by examining the day-to-day operations of existing societies. The political philosopher must go beyond mere description and engage in both conceptual analysis and moral theorizing to formulate possible answers. And thus far, many (but not all) of the answers proposed remain contested. The purpose of this book is to acquaint the student of political philosophy both with these questions and with the various answers to them proposed by philosophers since the ancient Greeks. It is intended to be a kind of map of the philosophical terrain in this area, as well as a guide to the writings and ideas of the major political philosophers whose work has created the conceptual contours of this map. It does so by pursuing two overarching issues: first, the nature of political authority, which is the subject of Part 1 of the book and is pursued in

    Chapters 1, 2, and 3; and second, the scope or extent of political authority when it is justly exercised, which is the subject of Part 2 of the book and is pursued in Chapters 4, 5, and 6. Because I survey so much, I must necessarily refrain from going into great detail about many of the ideas and philosophical works I discuss. Indeed, writing a book of this sort presents two related and difficult problems : figuring out what to put in it and figuring out how to organize the topics one has decided to put in it. The authors of books in the Westview


    Press Dimensions of Philosophy Series are like painters told to represent a highly complicated landscape. The limitations of time and space require that only some parts of the landscape be rendered in detail or rendered at all, meaning that there will be people who are puzzled about why their favorite parts of the landscape were left out or only sketched in and why other parts appear in great detail. I can only say that in choosing what to present I have tried to select those elements of the tradition of political philosophy that have proved enduringly important, and to choose those issues animating contemporary philosophy that are most likely to be important to the next generation of philosophers in their own political theorizing. But in a book of this sort, no matter how much one tries, there will always be many interesting issues in political theory that are not sufficiently explored, so I have attempted to design the book using endnotes and parenthetical remarks to note such issues and to give the reader references for exploring them further. I have also tried to construct this book so that it can be usefully accompanied by primary texts, many of which I discuss, although the use of those texts is certainly not necessary to understand anything I have written. Finally, the book tends to focus on issues that relate to the political experiences of North America, but I have tried to make the book as international as possible (particularly in Chapter 6, which looks at citizenship, immigration policy, nationalism, and secession), and, once again, I have indicated in endnotes places where students interested in certain international political issues can pursue them in more depth.

    Writers in political theory have varied enormously in the past twenty five years in what

    they have thought appropriate to include in their texts. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a book of this sort would have been designed to focus almost exclusively on the topic of distributive justice, an issue that political philosophers of that time took to be not only the most important but almost the only issue in political philosophy. The importance of this issue has persisted into our time; for example, in Will Kymlicka's excellent Contemporary Political

    Philosophy: An Introduction that issue figures far more prominently than any other. However, although I certainly discuss the issue of distributive justice (in Chapter 4), I present other issues that have been important historically and that are becoming important again as our political world changes. For example, the rise of the civil rights movement, feminist political theorizing, and communitarian concerns have led people to think about justice in ways that transcend distributive concerns, and I spend a great deal of time (in Chapter 5) discussing theories of justice that attempt to go beyond a mere theory of the distribution of resources. Moreover, with the growth of secessionist movements, renewed interest in nationalism, and concern about the stability (and not merely the distributive justice) of political communities


    over the past few years, what I call "structural issues" have become an increasingly significant part of political philosophizing. These issues were always important in traditional political

    theory, and those who thought about them from ancient Greece through the early modern period bequeathed to us theories of sovereignty, of desirable forms of political society, of boundary determinations, and of secession rights. This book will include substantial discussions (particularly in Chapters 1, 2, and 3) of many of these "old-fashioned" issues, which are again becoming important to a world that is rethinking old political units and attempting to devise and justify new ones. Nonetheless, I will be relating these issues to contemporary theorizing about distributive justice, because issues of justice are clearly relevant to defining and justifying political societies.

    Deemphasis on the issue of distributive justice also reflects my sympathy with the Marxist view that distributions of resources in any society are fundamentally connected with its political and social "deep structure," which generates not only forms of interaction that make certain kinds of distributions inevitable but also moral theories that justify those distributions. Hence what kinds of distributions count as fair can, in my view, be assessed only by looking at the structural conditions of society, by which I do not mean merely the economic modes of production but also legal structures establishing the government's role and jurisdiction, forms of family life, and social practices defining the life prospects of different sorts of people depending upon their gender or race or religion. As I seek to show, particularly in Chapter 5, the way in which social structures affect the operation of any political society critically determines the way in which resources in that society are allocated.

    In constructing this book, I have not simply reviewed extant political theories but also attempted to provide original theorizing of my own about some of the central issues I discuss. This is, in part, to prevent the book from being boring: There is no joy in reading mere summaries of existing literature. (Why not read the literature itself?) But it is also an attempt to show readers that these issues are still "live," open to new reflection and new solutions, issues that they should not be afraid to tackle with their own original reflections. I cannot overestimate the importance of feminism to the development of this project. Although I do not provide a separate chapter on feminist political theory, feminist ideas and perspectives pervade every chapter of the book, insofar as I believe they provide a way of looking at past and present political theorizing that generates original criticisms and perspectives that will be illuminating and intriguing to the reader.

    This book also includes a study of the history of political theorizing. We contemporary political theorists have been on the scene only a little while, and a great deal of important and influential political theorizing


    has occurred prior to the twentieth century. I present political theories of ancient Greece, the medieval period, the early modem period, and the nineteenth century not only because they are interesting and important in their own right but also because these theories have generated many of the ideas that contemporary philosophers use in their own theories (ideas such as "rights," "consent," "social contract," "utility," "perfectionism," "equality"), along with many of the arguments (e.g., social contract arguments, utilitarian arguments) that are the stock-in-trade of contemporary political theory. Unless the reader understands how and why these ideas and arguments were constructed, he or she will not be able to understand their strengths and weaknesses and hence will be at a disadvantage in assessing their use in contemporary political argumentation. Moreover, those political theorists who came before us, particularly

    in the early modem period, forged political theories that have greatly influenced existing political structures: Our democracies, our constitutions, our "bills of rights," our court systems and laws, and our economic systems all reflect the views, arguments, and theories of past political theorists. If we are to know where to go next, we must know from where we have come. Sometimes historical material will also raise interesting issues for the reader contemplating certain contemporary theories: For example, when one appreciates the context in which certain ideas have emerged, modem philosophers' use of those ideas in very different contexts may seem (rightly) puzzling and inappropriate.

    Finally, my intentions in this book are not merely to tell you, the reader, about how "the professionals" in philosophy have thought about issues in political theory, but to convince you that these are your issues, too, and that your own reflection on them not only can help you better understand the political world in which you live but also enable you to contribute to ongoing discussions in your culture about the nature and purpose of the state, whether you become a professional philosopher or not. Philosophy belongs to no particular elite but rather to all human beings.



    The Nature of

    Political Authority


    The Problem of

    Political Authority

    There is the question what renders it just to exercise force in, say, requiring what is just. The parent may in effect say, "Don't hit your little brother, or I will hit you." What is the differenceis there a differencebetween his threat and the threat of the child he so

    threatens? After all, the little brother may have been doing something quite unfair. The same question arises about the violence of the state. I judge that this is the fundamental question of political theory.

    1G.E.M. Anscombe, "On the Source of the Authority of the State"

    Think for a minute about your own political subjugation. You are continually subject to rules not directly of your own making, called laws, governing not only you but others, mandating, for example, how fast you can drive on a highway, what kind of behavior you can exhibit in public, what kinds of treatment of other human beings are permissible, what objects count as "yours" or "theirs," and so forth. These rules are enforced by certain people following the directives of those who create the rules and who set the penalties for breaking them. Thus you know that if you don't obey the rules, you are likely to suffer undesirable consequences, which can range from small fines to incarceration and even (in some societies) to death.

    But on the surface this seems to mean that when you are ruled you are not only subjugated but coerced. We don't approve of a gunman's pointing a gun at your head and demanding that you give him your money, so why should we approve of any group's using threats of fines, jail, or



    to demand that you behave in a certain way or that you pay them money (which they call "taxes") or that you fight in wars of their making? Is this subjugation really permissible from a moral point of view, especially given that human beings require freedom in order to flourish? 2

    In order to answer this question, we need to think about the difference between what intuitively strikes us as "good" and "bad" kinds of control. The control of a parent over a two-year-old is normally thought to be not only permissible but morally required. The control of a gunman over a victim he has kidnapped at gunpoint is normally thought to be highly impermissible. The second kind of control is condemned as morally unjustifieda violation

    of the coerced person's "rights." The first kind of control is thought to be morally justified and consistent with, and even supportive of, the child's rights. But what is the difference between rightful and wrongful kinds of control over human beings? And since political control is importantly different from the control that parents have over children, why should it count as an example of the "good" rather than the "bad" sort of control?

    Intuitively, we speak of the good forms of control as arising from some sort of authority that

    the controller rightfully exercises over the person she is controlling. Hence we speak of the authority of the parent over the child or the authority of the teacher over her students in the classroom or the authority of the priest over her religious congregation. Hence a person's rightful control over others in certain areas seems to arise from that person's authority in that area. But from where does such authority come? Do rulers in a political society have it? If so, what kind of authority is it?

    Whatever it is, it is not the same as (sheer) power. Authority is about the entitlement to.rule;

    mere power isn't enough to supply entitlement. There is an old maxim popular among tyrants that "might makes right." (Joseph Stalin's acceptance of this maxim explains why, on being asked in 1935 to encourage Catholicism in Russia in order to conciliate the pope, he replied, 3"The Pope! How many divisions has he got?") But most people, particularly those who have

    had the misfortune to be subject to the power of tyrants, have condemned and rejected this maxim, arguing that there is a huge difference between a ruler who has authority to govern and a mighty robber baron who, with his henchmen, controls people using terror and fear in a way that they despise. Rulers are said to have not only the power to make and enforce rules but also the entitlement to do so. And when they do so, they are said to have (political) authority.

    Connected to this entitlement is the obligation the subjects have to obey the (authoritative) ruler's commands. If I am a subject of a government I take to be authoritative, then not only do I obey a command of the state because I am fearful of the sanction if I disobey it and I am caught, but


    also (and more importantly) because I believe I ought to do so: "I have to do this because it's the law," I think to myself. And its being a law puts me under an obligation, independently of the content of its directive. I can hate or like what I am being commanded to do, but as long as that command comes from an authoritative political ruler, I understand that I have an obligation to obey it. That obligation purports to preempt, or "trump," all sorts of reasons I may have against performing as the command directs (although we might not think it trumps all reasonsin particular, it might not trump reasons based on certain moral principles that can seem more important than the legal obligation, or so advocates of civil disobedience will argue).

    To summarize, we can define political authority along the lines suggested by one recent philosopher as follows:

    Person x has political authority over person y if and only if the fact that x requires y to

    perform some action p gives y a reason to do p, regardless of what p is, where this reason 4 purports to override all (or almost all) reasons he may have not to do p.

    But where does this political authority come from? Answering this question involves understanding the kind of authority political rulers have. Clearly, they have authority to make and enforce rules, but into what areas can these rules extend? Does their authority allow them to make rules in any area of human life? Or are there constraints or limits on the scope of their control over us? And does their authority have any moral constraints? That is, must the rules they generate have a certain (moral) content in order to be considered authoritative (or binding) for us? Or are we subject to them no matter what their content simply by virtue of their having been commanded by people who have authority over us? Historically, political theorists have been divided about how to answer these questions: As we discuss in the next chapter, some, such as Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan (1651), argue that political authority is

    unlimited in scope (thus extending to all areas of human life) and substantively unconstrained. Others, such as John Locke in Two Treatises of Government (1689), contend that political

    authority is considerably constrained in both scope and content. However, no matter how this controversy is settled, note that even the most ardent supporter of the idea that political authority is limited must still accept that it is a very substantial kind of authority, involving, among other things, authority over the life and death of those subject to it. This power is most obvious in the context of punishment, but even in a society that eschews capital punishment, the state's control over life exhibits itself in its right to conduct war and its right to use various


    deadly means to pursue dangerous lawbreakers. If political authority involves this much control, how can it be defended as legitimate?

    Some thinkers known as anarchists have concluded that it cannot be defended and have

    criticized philosophical views that take for granted the idea that political domination is a special, morally justified form of domination. These anarchists have insisted that the only morally defensible form of human association is one in which there are no persons or institutions issuing commands that they back up through the use of force. Henry David Thoreau is an example of an anarchist, and this position enjoyed some popularity among 5intellectuals in nineteenth-century America and Russia. Anarchists such as Thoreau

    influenced twentieth-century advocates of civil disobedience and peaceful political revolution, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. But King and Gandhi embraced the idea

of peaceful revolution as a tool to combat only unjust political rule, not the idea of political

    rule itself. They, like most political theorists in our time, have believed that some forms of ruling political authority are legitimate. But given the inherently coercive nature of governments and ruling institutions, how can that legitimacy be established? In this chapter we review four theories that attempt, in different ways, to legitimate and define the extent and nature of political authority. They are the divine authority theory, the natural subordination theory, the perfectionist theory, and the consent-based theory. All of them have their roots in the political theorizing of ancient Greece, and the first three have been largely (but not entirely) rejected in the modern world for reasons that we shall review. The fourth, the consent-based theory, enjoys considerable popularity and has been developed in a number of ways. After introducing this theory in this chapter, we shall explore in subsequent chapters whether it merits its current popularity.

    The Divine Authority Theory

    The first theory of the source of political authority is what I will call the divine authority theory. On this view, a ruler has legitimate authority to govern people if and only if that authority in some way comes from the authority possessed by God, whose rule over human beings is supposed to be unquestionable. Of course, where God's authority comes from is an interesting question: Does he rule only because he is supremely mighty so that in God's

    case, at least, "might makes right" after all? Or does he rule because he is supremely good, in which case his authority comes from his goodness? Or does he have an authority over us that is somehow fundamental and intrinsic to his nature? Whatever the explanation of God's authority, the theorist who advocates this view maintains that


    God's authority (whatever its basis) is in some way the source of any authority that a political ruler possesses over his people.

    Historically, there were three basic ways in which a ruler's authority was "derived" from God. 6 First, the ruler could turn out to be God in human form. It was not uncommon in the ancient 7world for rulers to proclaim themselves to have divine status. What better way to establish

    your divine authority to rule than by proclaiming yourself to be the divine authority? Call this

    the "ruler is God" view. Second, if the people to be ruled would take such a proclamation to be dubious (or blasphemous), the rulers often tried arguing that even though they weren't God, they were (in some way) related to God or had (to some degree or other) divine status, and in this way partook of the divine authority to rule. There were a number of ways that rulers made this connection with the divine: For example, in Egypt there are written and pictorial documents declaring that any person who is the legitimate king of the people is someone who is the son of a god by union with the royal mother; in Sumeria some kings claimed divine status by calling themselves "husbands of goddesses" ; and in both realms kings often claimed 8they were nourished with divine milk. Call this the "ruler is related to God" view.

    But the third and probably most common way that rulers appealed to the divine as a basis for their own authority was to admit their full humanity but argue that they had been given the

    authority to rule by God. This view is known as the "divine right" view of political authority. Such a view was invoked in biblical times by rulers of the kingdom of Israel (many of whom were priests and ruled as priests) and in medieval times by the popes of the Christian Church,

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