Social Contract Tradition and the Question of Political Legitimacy

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The question of political legitimacy is a question concerning the justification of coercive political institutions. We recognize an obligation to obey political institutions given the satisfaction of certain conditions. This work examines these conditions by investigating the models of political legitimacy proposed by the classic social contract authors Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, and extends the analysis to include the work of influential contemporary contract theorist John Rawls.


“Professor Swanson provides with a work of exceptional depth. Drawing on the history of social and political philosophy, he is able to properly locate the question amid its many modern and traditional claims. . . . Besides providing us with a well written and carefully thought through analysis of many of the most important aspects of political legitimacy and its history in social contract theory, Professor Swanson has advanced a view of his own in conjunction with the writings of Professor Rawls. Such a view is one that would go far in advancing the current debate over community and civil society. . . . a possible groundwork to major contemporary issues in political and social thought.” – from the Preface by Joseph Bien

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
1. Introduction
2. The Legitimacy of the State
3. Hobbes and the Origin of the Social contract Tradition
4. Locke on consent and Property Rights
5. Rousseau and the General Will
6. The social contract Tradition Revived: Rousseau to Rawls
Bibliography; Index

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