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In political philosophy, the phrase consent of the governed refers to the idea that a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised. This theory of consent is historically contrasted to the divine right of kings and had often been invoked against the legitimacy of colonialism. Article 21 of the United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government".

A key question is whether the unanimous consent of the governed is required; if so, this would imply the right of secession for those who do not want to be governed by a particular collective. All democratic governments today allow decisions to be made even over the dissent of a minority of voters which, in some theorists' view, calls into question whether said governments can rightfully claim, in all circumstances, to act with the consent of the governed.[7]

Hypothetical consent

The theory of hypothetical consent of the governed holds that one's obligation to obey government depends on whether the government is such that one ought to consent to it, or whether the people, if placed in a state of nature without government, would agree to said gove

The theory of hypothetical consent of the governed holds that one's obligation to obey government depends on whether the government is such that one ought to consent to it, or whether the people, if placed in a state of nature without government, would agree to said government.[8] This theory has been rejected by some scholars[who?], who argue that since government itself can commit aggression, creating a government to safeguard the people from aggression would be similar to the people, if given the choice of what animals to be attacked by, trading "polecats and foxes for a lion", a trade that they would not make.[9]

Overt versus tacit consent

According to the prop

According to the propagandist Edward Bernays when discussing public relations techniques that were described in his essay and book The Engineering of Consent (1955), the public may be manipulated by its subconscious desires to render votes to a political candidate. Consent thus obtained undermines the legitimacy of government. Bernays claimed that "the basic principle involved is simple but important: If the opinions of the public are to control the government, these opinions must not be controlled by the government."[10]

Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their book, Manufacturing Consent (1988), advanced a Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their book, Manufacturing Consent (1988), advanced a propaganda model for the news media in the United States[11] in which coverage of current events was skewed by corporations and the state in order to manufacture the consent of the governed.

The theory of literal consent holds the logical position that valid consent must denote final authority belonging to the people, rather than elected officials, therefore this implies that the people have the absolute sovereign power to overrule their government at any time via popular vote (or as stated in the Declaration of Independence, "the right of the People to alter or abolish" their government). Without this unfettered power, theorists hold that true consent cannot exist and that any government is therefore despotism via governing the people by force without their actual consent.

See also