Legitimacy of Political Authority

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Legitimacy of authority is one of the fundamental questions in political philosophy. There are multiple issues and controversies involved in this major problem including the meaning of political authority, the distinction between political authority and political power, moral and legal aspects of political authority, and many others.


One of the key problems involved in the debate on justification of political authority is the balance between limitations imposed by any political authority and individual freedom. On the one hand, freedom is exceptionally important to the life of a person in many senses. On the other hand, an individual can not be allowed to act solely at his or her will: there must be certain rules for behavior. Establishing this balance between individual freedom and interests of the community is the key task of any state and government which acts like a stabilizer. In case this balance is in place, the highest level of individual freedom is achieved while the risk of falling into total anarchy is avoided (Popper, 1985).
According to Thomas Hobbes, in prehistoric uncivilized times before any sort of government emerged, there was constant war with "every man, against every man" (Hobbes, 1668, p.12). Consequently, Hobbesian justification of authority logically followed from the total brutality of human beings in their natural state characterized by intolerance: submission to authority was the only way to eliminate the brutality and intolerance of the State of Nature (Hobbes, 1668).
By contrast, John Locke believed that the original state of man was not as hostile as Hobbes thought. ...
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