Legitimacy is a fabled, ethereal thing. It is not exclusively democratic (monarchs enjoy legitimacy too, as to dictators), it’s not confined to the nation state (local government, NGOs, corporations, and international organisations also enjoy it), and it most certainly not constant. Legitimacy ebbs and flows, as a measure of the confidence of a people in its government, and also, increasingly, as a measure of the international community’s acceptance of a government as the legitimate representatives of a nation state. It is a relative thing – different people will see their government as more or less legitimate due to their personal beliefs and politics. Representative democracy tries to address minority opinion, but the basic liberal democratic structure suffers still from what Tocqueville called ‘the tyranny of the majority‘. Different international actors will infuse a government with legitimacy in its representations on the international stage. So Russia will continue to recognise and support Assad’s Syria, while Britain expels her diplomats. Legitimacy then is currency, a ‘good’ for the personas of international relations, nations states. It should be measurable (I’m hoping to find some research showing how it can be measured, or else do the work myself), and it should be comparable. There should be investments that can be made in order to build legitimacy, such as in institutions. Wars may increase or reduce legitimacy. All of these pieces need to be modelled.
Categories: measuring legitimacy