A Critique

  • John T. Bookman


Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke make the problem of political obligation the central concern of political philosophy. The Prince takes up the problem as an empirical one: How can the citizenry be brought to obey the law? However much coercion and the serving of interest encourage obedience, they are insufficient. Machiavelli’s appeal to Italian nationalism to inspire obedience and to evoke civic-mindedness is quixotic. Hobbes and Locke regard the problem as moral: Why is one obligated to obey a government? They ground obligation in the consent of the governed. Hobbes, however, robs consent of its obligatory force by approving consent under duress. Locke trivializes consent by defining it so broadly as to include traveling on the highway. Consent ill-serves as foundation of political obligation. Few of us knowingly consent to a government, and no one consents to the institution of civil society. People acquire an obligation to obey government because they are the beneficiaries of public goods.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John T. Bookman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Northern ColoradoGreeleyUSA

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