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A Care Ethical Theory of Political Obligation

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Chadha Sridhar, Ira 


The ethics of care – an approach in moral philosophy with feminist roots – understands care not just as a social phenomenon (as a type of action, relationship, or practice), but also as a crucial moral value. This thesis draws on the ethics of care to explore the question of political obligation: when, or under what conditions, do we owe a moral obligation to obey the law?

The thesis has four chapters. The first chapter challenges the notion that there is a general, content-independent, moral obligation to obey the law by showing that our obligations to obey the law are content-sensitive and particular: they exist only in the case of some legal directives, and not others. The rest of the thesis makes significant progress in elucidating the conditions under which these obligations are indeed present. The core argument of the thesis is that we have moral obligations to obey the law whenever the law’s demands are supported by our underlying responsibilities of care. To lay the ground for this conclusion, the second chapter offers a discussion of the concept of care as a thick ethical concept by elucidating the descriptive and evaluative dimensions of the concept. This sets the foundation for the third chapter which analyses the scope, grounds, and content of our moral duties to care for one another. In the fourth and final chapter, these findings are applied to the philosophical discussion around the obligation to obey the law to develop a care ethical response to the problem of political obligation. The argument that emerges is that we are morally obligated to obey legal directives of our state to the extent that is necessary for the effective discharge of our duties to care for co-citizens.

It is the author’s hope that this thesis will initiate further dialogue between care ethics and jurisprudence, lend clarity to some of the core tenets of the care ethical approach, and help demystify the debate around the moral obligation to obey the law.





Vinx, Lars


Concept of Care, Jurisprudence, Legal Philosophy, Moral Philosophy, Political Obligation, Political Philosophy, The ethics of care


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Cambridge Trust: Awarded the Cambridge International and Kings College Scholarship