The justification of political authority is one of the long-standing issues of political philosophy, and one which persistently defies satisfactory solution. This book sets out to provide an original justification by establishing a background framework for dealing with the problem.
Rex Martin begins by identifying the main elements of authority, arguing that they need to be linked in order to create a political authority that can be described as justified. He then sketches a framework - a sample system of political institutions and conceptions which is internally coherent - to link these elements.
The rest of the book fills in this outline. Professor Martin argues that rights are established patterns of acting or of being treated and are hence essentially institutional in character. The institutions that tend to be the most supportive, and productive, of individual rights are, he believes, democratic, and the central section of the book is devoted to the connection of rights with majority rule democratic political institutions and conceptions. From this nexus secondary lines of connection are traced to political obligation (or allegiance) and to an eligible justification for using punishment to enforce the rights of individuals.
Thus Professor Martin's analysis forms a distinctive and systematic approach to one particular state of government. This rethinking of some of the main topics of political theory is long overdue; it yields some striking conclusions about both the nature of rights and the nature of political authority itself.
`long, carefully argued book'
International Studies in Philosophy
'This is analytical political theory at its best - thoroughly worked through, illuminating, and persuasive.'
Attracta Ingram, University College, Dublin, Political Studies (1994), XLII
`he discusses knowledgeably yet imaginatively one sort of political and legal system ... I unreservedly assert that his institutional conception of rights deserves to be taken seriously as a very plausible alternative to the more familiar theories of Hart, Feinberg, Dworkin and Raz. Equally important are his discussions of the nature of democracy, the ground of political authority in a democracy and the internal justification of punishment. Most
impressive of all is his detailed demonstration of the internal coherence of the system of rights sketched in this book'
`his book is valuable for presenting a distinctive, because distinctively political, view of rights ... the book is at all points impressively scholarly, with references, when relevant, to most of the voluminous literature on rights. In this respect A System of Rights is a model work of philosophy: at once thoroughly steeped in the literature on its topic and rising above that literature to propose a novel, distinctive view'
`a systematic, careful elaboration of a theory of rights ... Martin has a knack for advancing controversial positions in a modest and unassuming way. That should not blind prospective readers to the fact that he has written an original and important work on the theory of rights that contributes new ideas to many old debates'
Tulane Law School
`many fine philosophical distinctions which help clarify the broad philosophical as well as applied areas of rights laws'
`This is analytical political theory at its best - thoroughly worked through, illuminating, and persuasive.'
`a rewarding and impressive book, which deals with a wide range of issues central to political philosophy in an interesting and original way. In this carefully argued examination and justification of a particular political system, Rex Martin offers an original account of rights, and links these rights with other political conceptions and institutions ... to forms what he calls a "system of rights" ... his discussion is rich and nuanced, and provides the
philosophical groundwork for clearer thinking about the difficult and elusive relationship between rights and democracy'
Canadian Journal of Political Science
`his book is valuable for presenting a distinctive, because distinctively political, view of rights ... the book is at all points impressively scholarly, with references, when relevant, to most of the voluminous literature on rights. In this respect A system of Rights is a model work of philosophy: at once thoroughly steeped in the literature on its topic and rising above that literature to propose a novel, distinctive view.'
Thomas Hurka, University of Calgary, Mind, Vol. 104, No. 413, January 1995
`What makes Martin's book so trenchant is that it can be read with great profit from different points of view ... The broad scope and provocative arguments of Martin's work assure that it will be a focal point in philosophically-oriented debate on rights.'
`The internal justification of political authority may be "a quite limited affair", but the wealth of reflections produced in this book is not ... What makes Martin's book so trenchant is that it can be read with great profit from different points of view .. The broad scope and provocative arguments of Martin's work assure that it will be a focal point on philosophically oriented debate on rights.'
`... a complex, innovative and valuable contribution to political philosophy and the philosophy of rights ... A System of Rights constitutes a valuable contribution to the ongoing debates on the nature of political authority and the philosophy of rights.'
Archiv fur Rechts- und Sozialphilosphie