Legitimate Authority in Forceful Resistance and the Consent Requirement

Kevin K W IP*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Individual victims of injustice may permissibly engage in a range of dissident activities to challenge unjust practices, policies, or institutions, so they could better enjoy their entitlements as a matter of justice. Resisters typically claim to engage in resistance for a larger group of victims, but the conditions leading to resistance tend to prevent them from obtaining a clear mandate from their “constituents.” In recent debates on legitimate authority to use defensive force, several theorists argue that such authority requires actual and informed consent of the victims on whose behalf resistance is undertaken. This article argues against that view. Two interpretations of the consent requirement are examined. In the first, consent of the people is measured by popular support for a resistance movement. In the second, consent is regarded as a kind of moral resource that can serve to justify defensive force. After refuting the arguments in support of the consent requirement, this article develops an alternative account of legitimate authority in forceful resistance which is not based on consent. It identifies a set of criteria for evaluating the insurgents’ claim to legitimate authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1168-1180
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date30 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • armed rebellion
  • consent
  • Injustice
  • legitimate authority
  • political representation
  • resistance


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