In the two preceding chapters, I have argued that neither voluntarist nor teleological theories are able to provide convincing accounts of political obligation, although both approaches do seem to latch on to features of it that any adequate account will need to accommodate. Voluntarist theories, though superficially attractive, present a picture of political relations that largely misrepresents the character of a polity and people’s experience of their relations to it. Teleological theories are either, as in the case of utilitarianism, unable to tie political obligation to the particular polity of which people are members, or, as with T. H. Green, involve an unconvincing conception of the common good. Overall, therefore, voluntarist and teleological theories both fail to capture distinctive features of political obligation. There is, though, a third type of account of political obligation that aspires to avoid the failings of the other two theories. This approach seeks to explain political obligation in terms of the idea of duty, and therefore the theories may be called, in philosophical terminology, ‘deontological’.
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