The preceding chapter examined one broad category of accounts of political obligation: voluntarist theories. In this chapter we look at another type of account: I label these ‘teleological theories’. Whereas voluntarist theories seek to explain political obligation in terms of some putative voluntary undertaking by the person obligated — a specific utterance or form of action — which puts that person under an obligation, the theories discussed in this chapter approach political obligation from a different perspective. These theories seek to explain political obligation by looking to the future rather than to the past, and by looking to the likely consequences or the purposes of the obligation, rather than to some obligation-creating voluntary act. They are teleological theories because they explain political obligation in terms of some goal, end or purpose, a telos, which provides the explanation or justification of the obligation. Political obligation within teleological theories characteristically derives from a general requirement to act in a manner designed to bring about a particular state of affairs. Teleological theories, therefore, are typically consequentialist or purposive in structure: broadly, the rightness of an action (or type of action), practice or institution is to be judged in terms of the value of what it brings about. Where teleological theories divide sharply one from another is in their accounts of the nature and value of these purposes or consequences. Thus, while all teleological theories account for political obligation by reference to the beneficial purposes or consequences of there being such an obligation — the obligation ultimately deriving from these purposes or consequences — they differ about the point of the obligation.
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