State Legitimacy and Self-Defence

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In this paper I outline a theory of legitimacy that grounds the state’s
right to rule on a natural duty not to harm others. I argue that by refusing to enter
the state, anarchists expose those living next to them to the dangers of the state of
nature, thereby posing an unjust threat. Since we have a duty not to pose unjust
threats to others, anarchists have a duty to leave the state of nature and enter the
state. This duty correlates to a claim-right possessed by those living next to them,
who also have a right to act in self-defence to enforce this obligation. This
argument, if successful, would be particularly attractive, as it provides an account
of state legitimacy without importing any normative premises that libertarians
would reject.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575–601
Number of pages26
JournalLaw and Philosophy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • Political Obligation
  • Legitimacy
  • Self-defense
  • Fair-Play
  • Natural Duties of Justice

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