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Fabian Wendt

ISBN: 978-1-509-51701-5

Aug 2018, Polity

140 pages



From citizens paying taxes to employees following their bosses' orders and kids obeying their parents, we take it for granted that a whole range of authorities have the power to impose duties on others. However, although authority is often accepted in practice, it looks philosophically problematic if we conceive persons as free and equals. 

In this short and accessible book, Fabian Wendt examines the basis of authority, discussing five prominent theories that try to explain how claims to authority can be vindicated. Focusing in particular on the issue of how states can rightfully claim authority, he rigorously analyses the theories’ arguments and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses. He also debates anarchism as an alternative that should be taken seriously if no theory ultimately succeeds in explaining state authority. 

This clear and engaging book will be essential reading for anyone grappling with the most fundamental questions of authority and obligation in political theory and political philosophy.

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  • Fabian Wendt is a Research Associate at Chapman University and in 2017 won the Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy, a prestigious prize for young scholars
  • This book is part of Polity’s ‘Key Concepts in Political Theory’ series: concise, accessible books that introduce students to core concepts, ideas and schools of thought in political theory
  • Here Wendt addresses fundamental questions of authority and obligation by critically examining five theories of how claims (particularly those made by states) to authority can be justified
  • This book will be essential reading for students and scholars of political theory, political philosophy, and the history of political thought, particularly on introductory courses and courses on authority and obligation
“Fabian Wendt has produced an elegant overview of recent discussions of both political and theoretical authority. Clear, thorough, and consistently insightful.”
George Klosko, University of Virginia

“Fabian Wendt’s fresh, penetrating analysis of the problems of political obligation and political authority is unsurpassed. Current approaches to this perennial topic and the future directions open to theorists are clarified with surgical precision. This book is both an accessible introduction for all and essential reading for specialists.”
William A. Edmundson, Georgia State University