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Res Publica

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 309–329 | Cite as

Political Anarchism and Raz’s Theory of Authority

  • Bruno Leipold
Article

Abstract

This article argues that using Joseph Raz’s service conception of authority to reject philosophical anarchism can be affected by political anarchism. Whereas philosophical anarchism only denies the authority of the state, political anarchism claims that anarchism is a better alternative to the state. Raz’s theory holds that an institution has authority if it enables people to better conform with reason. I argue that there are cases where anarchism is an existing alternative to the state and better fulfils this condition. Consequently, in these cases, anarchist groups and societies and not the state have legitimate authority. When anarchism is not an existing alternative to the state, the state will, under Raz’s theory, have some legitimate authority, but that authority will be limited because anarchism remains a better possible alternative to the state. To support the political anarchist claim I discuss the anarchist collectives during the Spanish civil war, which I argue are an example of anarchism as an existing alternative to the state that better fulfils Raz’s service conception and also provide suggestive evidence that anarchism is in general a better possible alternative. I also discuss the relationship between political anarchism and authority and I argue that despite some tension they are not irreconcilable. I conclude that the interesting anarchist challenge for political theorists is political not philosophical.

Keywords

Anarchism Authority Joseph Raz Legitimacy Spanish collectives 

Notes

Acknowledgments

For helpful comments on earlier versions of the article I would like to thank Svenja Ahlhaus, Puneet Dhaliwal, Mirjam Müller, Rob Jubb, Tom Parr, Laura Valentini, Andrew Walton and the anonymous referees for Res Publica. I am also grateful to the organisers and participants of the graduate political theory conferences at Warwick and Science Po, and I was particularly fortunate to receive feedback from Joseph Raz at Science Po.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International RelationsUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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