Micah J. Schwartzman

Obligation, Anarchy, and Exemption

Constitutional Commentary
2013 Summer


This is a review of Abner Greene's Against Obligation: The Multiple Sources of Authority in a Liberal Democracy (2012). I begin by summarizing Greene's arguments against political obligation and in favor of a remedial theory of legal exemptions. I suggest that despite Greene's claims to the contrary, he is committed to philosophical anarchism, which holds that actually existing states are politically illegitimate and that citizens have no general duty to obey the law. I then argue that philosophical anarchism does not explain various examples of religious accommodation that Greene claims are justified according to his theory. More conventional arguments based on freedom and equality may be better suited to justify exemptions in such cases.


Micah J. Schwartzman, Obligation, Anarchy, and Exemption, 29 Constitutional Commentary 93-109 (2013).

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