The Irrelevance of Legitimacy

TitleThe Irrelevance of Legitimacy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsMarquez X.
JournalPolitical Studies
Date PublishedApr
ISBN Number0032-3217
Accession NumberWOS:000374246400003

Both popular and academic explanations of the stability, performance and breakdown of political order make heavy use of the concept of legitimacy. But prevalent understandings of the idea of legitimacy, while perhaps useful and appropriate ways of making sense of the political world in ordinary public discourse, cannot play the more rigorous explanatory roles with which they are tasked in the social sciences. To the extent that the concept of legitimacy appears to have some explanatory value, this is only because explanations of social and political order that appeal to legitimacy in fact conceal widely different (and often inconsistent) accounts of the mechanisms involved in the production of obedience to authority and submission to norms. It is suggested in this article that explanatory social science would be better off abandoning the coarse concept of legitimacy for more precise accounts of the operation of these mechanisms in particular contexts.