Legitimacy (political)
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Legitimacy (political)

October 8, 2019

In political science, legitimacy is the
popular acceptance of an authority, usually a governing law or a régime.
Whereas “authority” denotes a specific position in an established government,
the term “legitimacy” denotes a system of government — wherein “government”
denotes “sphere of influence”. Political legitimacy is considered a basic
condition for governing, without which a government will suffer legislative
deadlock(s) and collapse. In political systems where this is not the case,
unpopular régimes survive because they are considered legitimate by a small,
influential élite. In Chinese political philosophy, since the historical period
of the Zhou Dynasty, the political legitimacy of a ruler and government was
derived from the Mandate of Heaven, and unjust rulers who lost said mandate
therefore lost the right to rule the people.
In moral philosophy, the term “legitimacy” is often positively
interpreted as the normative status conferred by a governed people upon
their governors’ institutions, offices, and actions, based upon the belief that
their government’s actions are appropriate uses of power by a legally
constituted government. In law, “legitimacy” is distinguished from
“legality”, to establish that a government action can be legal whilst
not being legitimate; e.g., the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed the
United States to wage war against Vietnam without a formal declaration of
war. It is also possible for a government action to be legitimate
without being legal; e.g., a pre-emptive war, a military junta. An example of
such matters arises when legitimate institutions clash in a constitutional
crisis. The Enlightenment-era British social
philosopher John Locke said that political legitimacy derives from
popular explicit and implicit consent of the governed: “The argument of the
[Second] Treatise is that the government is not legitimate unless it is carried
on with the consent of the governed.” The German political philosopher Dolf
Sternberger said that “[l]egitimacy is the foundation of such governmental
power as is exercised, both with a consciousness on the government’s part
that it has a right to govern, and with some recognition by the governed of that
right.” The American political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset said
that legitimacy also “involves the capacity of a political system to
engender and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the
most appropriate and proper ones for the society.” The American political
scientist Robert A. Dahl explained legitimacy as a reservoir; so long as
the water is at a given level, political stability is maintained, if it falls
below the required level, political legitimacy is endangered.
Types of legitimacy Legitimacy is “a value whereby something
or someone is recognized and accepted as right and proper”. In political science,
legitimacy usually is understood as the popular acceptance and recognition by
the public of the authority of a governing régime, whereby authority has
political power through consent and mutual understandings, not coercion. The
three types of political legitimacy described by German sociologist Max
Weber are traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal:
Traditional legitimacy derives from societal custom and habit that emphasize
the history of the authority of tradition. Traditionalists understand
this form of rule as historically accepted, hence its continuity, because
it is the way society has always been. Therefore, the institutions of
traditional government usually are historically continuous, as in monarchy
and tribalism. Charismatic legitimacy derives from the
ideas and personal charisma of the leader, a person whose authoritative
persona charms and psychologically dominates the people of the society to
agreement with the government’s régime and rule. A charismatic government
usually features weak political and administrative institutions, because
they derive authority from the persona of the leader, and usually disappear
without the leader in power. However, if the charismatic leader has a successor,
a government derived from charismatic legitimacy might continue.
Rational-legal legitimacy derives from a system of institutional procedure,
wherein government institutions establish and enforce law and order in
the public interest. Therefore, it is through public trust that the government
will abide the law that confers rational-legal legitimacy.
Forms of legitimacy =Numinous legitimacy=
In a theocracy, government legitimacy derives from the spiritual authority of
a god or a goddess. In Ancient Egypt, the legitimacy of the
dominion of a Pharaoh was theologically established by doctrine that posited the
pharaoh as the Egyptian patron god Horus, son of Osiris.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the priesthood derives its legitimacy from a
divine source; the Roman Magisterium dogmatically teaches that Jesus Christ
designated St. Peter the supreme and infallible head of the entire Christian
Church, and thus each bishop of Rome is sanctified, legitimate, and possesses
these charisms as well.=Civil legitimacy=
The political legitimacy of a civil government derives from agreement among
the autonomous constituent institutions—legislative, judicial,
executive—combined for the national common good. One way civil society
grants legitimacy to governments is through public elections.
=Input, output and throughput legitimacy=
Assessing the political legitimacy of a government can be done by looking at
three different aspects of which a government can derive legitimacy from.
Scharpf introduced two normative criteria, which are output legitimacy,
i.e. the effectiveness of policy outcomes for people and input
legitimacy, the responsiveness to citizen concerns as a result of
participation by the people. A third normative criterion was added by
Schmidt, who analyzes legitimacy also in terms of what she calls throughput, i.e.
the governance processes that happen in between input and output.
=Negative and Positive legitimacy=Does legitimacy draw on actors or their
actions? Abulof distinguishes between negative political legitimacy, which is
about the object of legitimation, and positive political legitimacy, which is
about the source of legitimation. NPL is concerned with establishing where to
draw the line between good and bad, PPL with who should be drawing it in the
first place. From the NPL perspective, political legitimacy emanates from
appropriate actions; from a PPL perspective, it emanates from
appropriate actors. In the social contract tradition, Hobbes and Locke
focused on NPL, while Rousseau focused more on PPL. Arguably, political
stability depends on both forms of legitimacy.
Sources of legitimacy Max Weber proposed that societies behave
cyclically in governing themselves with different types of governmental
legitimacy. That democracy was unnecessary for establishing legitimacy,
a condition that can be established with codified laws, customs, and cultural
principles, not by means of popular suffrage. That a society might decide to
revert from the legitimate government of a rational–legal authority to the
charismatic government of a leader; e.g., the Nazi Germany of Adolf Hitler,
Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini, and fascist Spain under General
Francisco Franco. The French political scientist Mattei
Dogan’s contemporary interpretation of Weber’s types of political legitimacy
proposes that they are conceptually insufficient to comprehend the complex
relationships that constitute a legitimate political system in the
twenty-first century. Moreover, Dogan proposed that traditional authority and
charismatic authority are obsolete as forms of contemporary government rule by
means of the priestly Koranic interpretations by the Ayatollah
Khomeini). That traditional authority has disappeared in the Middle East; that
the rule-proving exceptions are Islamic Iran and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the
third Weber type of political legitimacy, rational-legal authority,
exists in so many permutations no longer allow it to be limited as a type of
legitimate authority. Forms of legitimate government
In determining the political legitimacy of a system of rule and government, the
term proper — political legitimacy — is philosophically an essentially contested
concept that facilitates understanding the different applications and
interpretations of abstract, qualitative, and evaluative concepts
such as “art”, “social justice”, et cetera, as applied in aesthetics,
political philosophy, the philosophy of history, and the philosophy of religion.
Therefore, in defining the political legitimacy of a system of government and
rule, the term “essentially contested concept” indicates that a key term has
different meanings within a given political argument. Hence, the
intellectually restrictive politics of dogmatism, scepticism, and eclecticism
are inappropriate philosophic stances for managing a political term that has
more than one meaning. Forms of legitimate government are
posited to include: Communism: The legitimacy of a Communist
state derives from having won a civil war, a revolution, or from having won an
election, such as the Presidency of Salvador Allende in Chile; thus, the
actions of the Communist government are legitimate, authorised by the people. In
the early twentieth century, Communist parties based the arguments supporting
the legitimacy of their rule and government upon the scientific nature of
Marxism. Constitutionalism: The modern political
concept of constitutionalism establishes the law as supreme over the private
will, by integrating nationalism, democracy, and limited government. The
political legitimacy of constitutionalism derives from popular
belief and acceptance that the actions of the government are legitimate because
they abide by the law codified in the political constitution. The political
scientist Carl Joachim Friedrich said that, in dividing political power among
the organs of government, constitutional law effectively restrains the actions of
the government. Democracy: In a democracy, government
legitimacy derives from the popular perception that the elected government
abides by democratic principles in governing, and thus is legally
accountable to its people. Fascism: In the 1920s and the 1930s,
fascism based its political legitimacy upon the arguments of traditional
authority; respectively, the German National Socialists and the Italian
Fascists claimed that the political legitimacy of their right to rule
derived from philosophically denying the political legitimacy of elected liberal
democratic governments. During the Weimar Republic, the political
philosopher Carl Schmitt—whose legal work as the “Crown Jurist of the Third
Reich” promoted fascism and deconstructed liberal
democracy—addressed the matter in Legalität und Legitimität, an
anti-democratic polemic treatise that asked: How can parliamentary government
make for law and legality, when a 49 per cent minority accepts as politically
legitimate the political will of a 51 per cent majority?
Monarchy: In a monarchy, the divine right of kings establishes the political
legitimacy of the rule of the monarch; legitimacy also derives from the popular
perception and acceptance of the monarch as the rightful ruler of nation and
country. Contemporarily, such divine-right legitimacy is manifest in
the absolute monarchy of the House of Saud, a royal family who have ruled and
governed Saudi Arabia since the 18th century. Moreover, constitutional
monarchy is a variant form of monarchic political legitimacy which combines
traditional authority and legal–rational authority, by which means the monarch
maintains nationalist unity and democratic administration.
See also Delegitimization
Mandate Rule of law
Rule According to Higher Law Colonialism

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