Without in any way claiming to be exhaustive, in this chapter, I offer a critical overview of numerous ways in which philosophers have evaluated the legitimacy of power. My exegesis will take a particular form as I have a specific purpose in mind. Although I will discuss numerous theoretical positions (in particular, republicanism, anarchism, various forms of liberalism, and social contract theory), I do not pretend to offer a comprehensive judgement of their value as political theories. I do not have the space required to do justice to such a task, but in any case it would not meet our current needs. I am not concerned here with which theoretical position is the best ‘fit’ with the reality of parental power, although in the main it is in those terms that they have been presented to us. Rather, I will analyse these various opposing theoretical arguments in order to illustrate how moral values may come into conflict when we evaluate the legitimacy of parents’ power in concrete situations. I hope to show the inadequacy of efforts made to equate power with one of its forms and, in that way, to reduce moral complexity concerning the legitimacy of power, namely arguments about liberty, coercion, control, authority, and paternalism. Even among those who concern themselves with, say, coercion, seemingly intractable moral disagreements arise, and these theoretical disagreements are, I shall argue, evidence of underlying conflicts between independent moral values.
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