top of page

The Loyalty Puzzle

The puzzle of loyalty has dominated Western philosophy for centuries. And yet, the concept of loyalty remains a conundrum. The law contains no commonly-accepted definition of what it means to be loyal and generally does not offer standards by which to measure the duty of loyalty or criteria to determine its essence. Rather, legal systems seek to define disloyalty: treason, espionage, and other related crimes. In loyalty debates, it is often unknown who owes what to whom and why. The project examines the concept of political loyalty as a legal institution in contemporary liberal democracies. First, using comparative analysis, it highlights the growing global interest in loyalty demands, in particular in relation to immigration and citizenship. Second, based upon historical evidence, it explores the function of loyalty duties and assesses their role. Third, through legal analysis, it seeks to challenge the validity of loyalty as a legal institution and identifies liberal concerns related to their content and form and associated with the added value of the duty of "loyalty to the law" (allegiance), as distinct from the duty to "obey the law" (obedience). The project reveals an ongoing tension between loyalty and liberalism and argues that the more loyalty liberal democracies demand, the less liberal they become.

bottom of page