Does Basing Rights on Autonomy Imply Obligations of Political Allegiance?

James W. Nickela1

a1 University of Colorado, Boulder

Charles Taylor's well-known essay, “Atomism”, criticizes libertarian theories of rights like Nozick's that make individual rights independent of any duties to belong to, support, or obey the law in the society in which those rights are to be enjoyed. Taylor argues that if one grounds rights to important liberties on the human capacity for autonomy, this commits one to the view that the development of autonomy in oneself and others is morally obligatory. Further, Taylor argues that most people cannot develop autonomy in the absence of a certain sort of social and political environment. Hence, if it is morally obligatory to try to develop autonomy in oneself and others, it is also obligatory to belong to, support, and give obedience to those institutions which create the environment in which autonomy can be developed.