Cover: Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World, from Harvard University PressCover: Legitimacy in HARDCOVER


The Right to Rule in a Wanton World

Product Details


$42.00 • £36.95 • €38.95

ISBN 9780674983465

Publication Date: 11/19/2019


304 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

7 tables


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Few words are more important in politics than ‘legitimacy,’ and few are so flagrantly misused. Arthur Applbaum sets us straight, with an exemplary display of philosophical clarity, passion, and insight. Once you’ve read him, you will never misuse the word again.—Michael Ignatieff, President, Central European University

This ambitious study breaks new ground in important ways, arguing that legitimacy rests on group agency, and lies threaten political freedom. With impressive discussion and illuminating case studies, Applbaum offers a welcome corrective to an overly idealized picture of politics.—Rae Langton, University of Cambridge

Applbaum’s new philosophical account of political legitimacy may be the deepest and most illuminating we have. It shows how a careful understanding of legitimacy—engaging with the best philosophy, as well as with historical events—gives it powerful leverage. The result has philosophical and practical implications about obligation, coercion, resistance, foreign intervention, despotism, money, and lies. It should be, and will be, widely studied.—David Estlund, author of Democratic Authority

In this magnificent analysis of the frequently used but imperfectly understood concept of legitimacy, Arthur Applbaum argues that the greatest danger to democratic legitimacy today is wantonism, the tyranny of unreason. Along the way he engagingly exposes common mistakes about legitimacy, and develops his own distinctive theory, based on the idea of free group agency. The theory has striking implications for a wide range of questions in political theory and practice, including representation, campaign promises and electoral mandates, civil disobedience, political dissent, and foreign intervention.—Dennis F. Thompson, Harvard University

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