Legitimacy and the Authority of the State with Dr. Thomas Adams
Dr. Thomas (Tom) Adams is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, as well as a tutorial Fellow at St. Catherine’s College. He works in the philosophy of law, with special interest in questions relating to social ontology, as well as theoretical aspects of constitutional and administrative law.
It is commonly believed that justified authority is a condition of the legitimacy of the state. If political authority does not withstand the test of justification, then it cannot be legitimate. In this talk I seek to problematise this claim. I begin by distinguishing two senses of justified authority. When we use this term we may either be referring to the justification for the existence of authoritative institutions, or the justification for the use of authoritative power. Political legitimacy is wrongly identified with the former, I argue, because the question of legitimacy presupposes the existence of authority. It is wrongly identified with the latter because the central concern of political legitimacy is who may exercise authority, whereas an account of the justified use of authority concerns how it is exercised.