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Christopher W. Morris on Social Order - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 201
Social Order/Morris: [traditional argumentation]: one may argue that force is fundamental to maintaining social order. That is, it may be thought to be more important than any other factor in maintaining the state. The proof is that no state can do without it. Remove force (and sanctions), and the legal order collapses.
MorrisVsTradition: But this argument, common as it is, is too swift. Why do we obey the law or, for that matter, do almost anything? Usually our reasons are multiple, and very often our actions are overdetermined. Consider the case of overdetermined actions. Removing one consideration favouring the action in question may not change the balance of reasons. If an act is overdetermined by reasons, then removing one reason (e.g. the threat of sanctions) may not
affect our rational choice. Consider next acts that are not overdetermined. Suppose, for instance, that I decide to put money in a parking meter or not to hide some of my income from the tax authorities, and that I would not have taken these decisions had there been no credible threat of sanctions. Does this show that coercion is decisive in determining my action? We could say that it does but only in the sense that any number of things are equally decisive. After all, if the act is not overdetermined and is favoured by the balance of reasons, virtually any change will alter the balance; anything that 'tips the balance' will, on this account, be decisive. Coercion and force may be important and even indispensable, but that does not mean they are more important than anything else.
Political order: a political order which may not hold together without force may also collapse if numerous other factors are not present - for instance, if subjects cease to be patriotic, if they become less prudent, if they become literate, if they act together, if they sober up. Even tyrannical
Gaus I 202
regimes require something more than force to remain in place; they cannot maintain themselves only with force.


Morris, Christopher W. 2004. „The Modern State“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Morris, Christopher W.
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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