The Problem of Authority: Revisiting the Service Conception

Joseph Raz, Columbia Law School


The problem I have in mind is the problem of the possible justification of subjecting one's will to that of another, and of the normative standing of demands to do so. The account of authority that I offered, many years ago, under the title of the service conception of authority, addressed this issue, and assumed that all other problems regarding authority are subsumed under it. Many found the account implausible. It is thin, relying on very few ideas. It may well appear to be too thin, and to depart too far from many of the ideas that have gained currency in the history of reflection on authority. The present article modifies some aspects the account, and defends it against some criticism made against it.