In Ch. 8 of DEMOCRATIC AUTHORITY, David Estlund argues for a certain kind of political authority on a purely intuitive basis (as a run-up to a more-principled or intuition-vindicating defense of political authority). His argument starts with the intuitive (and Lockean) anti-vigilante principle (AVP):
when there is a system that serves the purposes of judgment and punishment without private punishment, then private punishment is morally wrong
The idea here is that the obligation not to engage in relevant sorts of private punishment (even when the public verdict is known to be wrong) is generated by the system of public justice forbidding private punishment or vigilante behavior. Since forbidding-generated as well as command-generated obligation (to obey) suffices for authority, what we have here is a kind of political authority. (Notice that, despite my language here, the system need not be public in anything like the governmental sense. The system could be privately-run but dominant in a geographic area.)
One might, of course, reject AVP. More plausibly, one might accept a version of AVP that is consistent with skepticism about political authority because one’s obligation not to punish privately runs out whenever the system of public justice fails (or reasonably seems to fail). But the stronger version of AVP is highly intuitive.
One might object that an adequate system of public justice does not forbid one from seeking private justice (after all, there might be no direct command issued by anyone). In which case, perhaps we have a rather interesting case like that of generating obligations to stop in drivers by stepping out in front of their cars, but we don’t have authority. But, if the norms and expectations in a group come to ‘you are not to do X’, this comes to the group forbidding X. So dominant-collective-attitude-style forbidding does not and need not involve any order-giving or commanding. (Alternatively, one might argue that what we need for political authority is not forbidding, but commanding or order-giving. But forbidding seems to be in the right family of social-regulatory actions and attitudes.)
Estlund worries that the relevant actions or states might cause the obligations in a merely-accidental way (as a mere side-effect of action, as when I walk out in front of your car), but I don’t see why this is a worry. Once it is granted that the group forbids one’s X-ing, it is a mere philosopher’s quibble to worry that, perhaps, despite this, the obligation – of precisely the right content – is not generated in the right way. It is pretty clear that, in any realistic scenario, if you get the obligation not to be a vigilante from an adequate-enough public system of justice forbidding it, the obligation is generated, if it is generated at all, by the forbidding and in the right way for political authority.
(Estlund’s language of ‘the moral power to forbid/require’ – as against, say ‘causing there to be a moral requirement by requiring’ – does not make clear that the obligation-generating action is forbidding/requiring descriptively considered. In line with this, the relevant distinction for him is that between obligations or their generation being accidental or non-accidental relative to the relevant institution or practice. I don’t think this is the best way of framing things. However, I also worry that there is something subtle in Estlund’s treatment that I am missing.)
This is a pretty good intuitive-level argument in favor of at least a limited kind of political authority! Maybe it is still a puzzle how this could be – maybe, in the end, the relevant intuitions and hence the conclusion cannot be vindicated in a deeply explanatory/justificatory way – but that this is seems pretty intuitive once we accept AVP and some ancillary premises and think things over in a logical way.
(The philosophical anarchist would deny that the obligation here extends to not punishing privately in relevant ways when the public system fails to punish a guilty party. The point here is simply that, in the case of public criminal justice, what philosophical anarchism says is, for many people, not very intuitive. Of course, substantive intuitions being what they are, mileage will vary.)