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Ruling in a Wanton World: Arthur Applbaum’s Work and the Philosophy of Legitimacy Beyond the State


A big thank you to all participants for the successful workshop!

We invited contributions to a workshop on themes from Arthur Applbaum new book, Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World, and new philosophical research on legitimacy more broadly. In his book, Applbaum argues for a “group agency” account of legitimacy, on which government is legitimate if it individually and collectively makes us free. The book also enriches our understanding of many other topics, such as the concept of legitimacy, the conditions for when foreign intervention is permissible, and the role of democracy in justifying power. Applbaum also develops an innovative account of “wanton” government.

Beyond themes from Applbaum’s book, we were also interested in how accounts of legitimacy can contribute to our understanding of inter- and transnational government. . In particular, we are interested in theories of the legitimacy of international institutions such as  international courts, and approaches to legitimacy in the context of global challenges like climate change.

Potential Topics

The conference was organised in two tracks. Authors could apply for one or both tracks.

The first track concerned themes from Applbaum’s book, Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World. Potential paper topics could be, but were not limited to,

  • Applbaum’s power-liability account and the concept of legitimacy
  • The group agency account of legitimacy
  • Freedom and the foundations of a theory of legitimacy
  • Kantian and Republican accounts of legitimacy (in Applbaum and others)
  • Legitimate foreign intervention
  • Applbaum’s “three tyrannies”
  • “Wanton” government
  • Applications of Applbaum’s arguments to contemporary issues

The second track concerned the philosophy of legitimacy beyond the state. (Authors in this track were encouraged, but not required, to connect their research to Applbaum’s work.) We were particularly interested in the following topics:

  • Conceptually understanding legitimacy beyond the state
  • Group agency and legitimacy beyond the state
  • The legitimacy of international organisations, especially international courts
  • The political legitimacy of responses to climate change
  • Existential threats to humanity and political legitimacy

Confirmed Speakers

Journal Issue

The journal Moral Philosophy and Politics is planning a thematic issue on Arthur Applbaum's book. Contributions to the journal are independent of the conference and will be peer reviewed.


Date: 29th to 31st May, 2022

Location: Festsaal Meerscheinschlössl, Mozartgasse 3, Graz

Opening and public lecture: Distinguished writer, historian, professor and politician Michael Ignatieff (Central European University)29th Mai 2022 at 17:00 at Festsaal Meerscheinschlössl, Mozartgasse 3 on the topic "Legitimacy in a World Without Rules”:

How do we think about the legitimate use of political authority, both within but between states, in a world discovering that the so-called “rules based international order” has collapsed?

How do we think about rebuilding the legitimacy of international institutions from the ruins left behind by the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

How does Europe re-think democratic legitimacy on a continent where authoritarian populists win elections?

Univ.-Prof. Dr.

Lukas Meyer

Attemsgasse 25/II

Phone:+43 (0)316 380 - 2300
Fax:+43 (0)316 380 - 9705

Contact person

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