The Problem of Pluralist Authority



This article presents a reconstruction of political pluralism derived from Joseph Raz's explanation of the authority of law. It argues that Harold Laski's critique of state authority, while claiming to be pluralistic, leaves little room for the exercise of authority by associations themselves. The authority of an association may be justified if it facilitates its members' compliance with reasons that apply to them, especially reasons that are particular to the members' association. This results in the recognition of two types of authority in the state: first-order authority, which the state has by virtue of being an association of citizens; and second-order authority, which it has by virtue of providing the institutional context in which other associations can exercise their authority more effectively. The resulting image of the state may better acknowledge the variety of authoritative claims made by the various associations that effectively hold the allegiance of individuals.