, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 225-240
Date: 16 Feb 2012

The Limits of Razian Authority

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Abstract

It is common to encounter the criticism that Joseph Raz’s service conception of authority is flawed because it appears to justify too much. This essay examines the extent to which the service conception accommodates this critique. Two variants of this critical strategy are considered. The first, exemplified by Kenneth Einar Himma, alleges that the service conception fails to conceptualize substantive limits on the legitimate exercise of authority. This variant fails; Raz has elucidated substantive limits on jurisdiction within the service conception of authority, albeit reluctantly and equivocally. The second, exemplified by Scott Hershovitz, alleges that the service conception fails to conceptualize procedural limits on the legitimate exercise of authority. He objects that the normal justification thesis fails to deny legitimacy to rational and expert dictators. This argument is more potent, but its force is concealed when it is aimed at the normal justification thesis rather than the quite separate jurisdictional limits of Raz’s theory. Clarifying those jurisdictional aspects of the service conception shows why the first argument fails and exposes the real strength of the second. Both variants have important consequences for our understanding of the service conception.