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By Rex Martin

The justification of political authority is a long-standing factor of political philosophy, one that repeatedly defies answer. This booklet presents an unique justification through constructing a framework for facing this challenge. The version that emerges is one during which sure different types of political rights are emphasised. Martin discusses the consequences of one of these process for democratic associations, political allegiance, punishment, and finally for the character of political authority.

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We first suppose that the doing of A by an agent is socially endorsed. Here the accomplishing of A—as an end-state or goal, as something that is to be brought about—is socially approved. More specifically, we could say, for example, that the accomplishment of A is allowed. 13 Suppose, for the moment, a person who does not approve the relevant endorsement, and in that sense has an external viewpoint (as might someone from another society, for instance). This could well affect such a person's conduct, negatively, towards the action of the rightholder in question; but it should not affect that person's understanding that if the accomplishment of the way of acting was in fact endorsed then the conduct of others regarding it, given that endorsement, can be rated as proper or improper within the perspective of that endorsement.

It's just that if we could not reach something fairly determinate from the abstract assertion of the right, then the assertion of a right here is irresolute; it would not tell people what they could or could not do and they would soon lose interest. So we can say that there is an appropriate determinateness to such disputes and that one of the points to an argument about rights is to 26 The Concept of Rights settle on what that is: to decide what, specifically, the right is to in the context of the dispute.

It might be countered that a person has, even when asleep, the right to travel. That is so. But the way of acting is the rightholder's; it is, or essentially involves, something the rightholder does or can do. Or that others, acting on the rightholder's behalf, do or can do. Not so with the right not to be tortured. The two rights we are discussing are classical in character; the right to life and the right not to be tortured clearly were contemplated by the The Concept of Rights 41 philosophers and manifesto writers of an earlier time.

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