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Legitimacy: Legitimacy is the belief that a rule, institution, or leader has the right to govern. It is a judgment by an individual about the rightfulness of a hierarchy. See also Law, Laws, Rights, Society, State, Justice, Democracy.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Christopher W. Morris on Legitimacy - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 202
Legitimacy/Morris: suppose that some states - those that serve our interests, that behave justly, and so on - are such that they are justified and that they are thereby legitimated. Do they then possess all of the normative powers they claim? We need to investigate legitimacy. When are states legitimate? What is the basis of their legitimacy? And what exactly does legitimacy entail?
'Legitimacy' is derived from lex and has the same root as 'legislation'. One sense of 'legitimate'
is being in accordance with law or lawful (legality). Any lawful or 'legal' state is legitimate in this
sense. Closely related would be the more general notion of being in accordance with the established rules or procedures relevant to the matter at issue (e.g. a legitimate move in chess, the legitimate heir to the throne). These senses of 'legitimate', largely procedural and similar to the primary sense of 'legal' (being in accordance with the law), are not very useful for our normative inquiry.
Problems: often in politics and especially international affairs a state is thought to be legitimate if it is recognized or accepted by others. There is considerable unclarity as to what this means. Sometimes the suggestion seems to be merely that a legitimate state is a genuine state. Legitimacy in this sense is uninteresting. Sometimes the idea of acceptance or recognition suggests that being a legitimate state requires being so recognized by other states, as if legitimacy were a kind of membership in an organization or club. Even if the members of this club are not all corrupt, this notion also seems uninteresting. The question is what conditions ought to be imposed for membership.
Social scineces/Weber: in the social sciences, accounts derived from Weber would have us understand the state's legitimacy in terms of the attitudes of subjects.
MorrisVsWeber: the crudest would say that a state is legitimate in so far as it is so regarded by its subjects, which is not very illuminating until we understand what it is for someone so to regard a state.
State: What is it then for a state to be legitimate in a more substantive sense? If a state is legitimate it has a certain status. At the least, its existence is permissible. It may also have a (claim-)right to exist.
Solution: a legitimate state, we shall say, is minimally one which has a liberty, presumably a
(claim-)right, to exist. It would presumably also possess the liberty or the right to establish laws and to adjudicate and enforce these as necessary for the maintenance of order and other ends. Legitimacy in this minimal sense would be the right to exist and to rule.
Legitimacy, strong and weak: it is useful at this point to distinguish weaker and stronger conceptions of legitimacy. A legitimate state possesses a (claim-)right to exist and to rule.
The right to exist entails obligations on the part of others not to threaten its existence in certain
ways (e.g. not to attack or to conquer it).
a) a state is
Gaus I 203
minimally legitimate, I shall say, if its right to rule entails that others are obligated not to undermine it but are not necessarily obligated to obey it.
2) by contrast, a state is fully legitimate if its right to rule entails an obligation of subjects, or at least citizens, to obey (each valid law). This obligation may be thought of as a general obligation to obey the law, one which requires compliance with every law that applies to one except in circumstances indicated by the law (e.g. justified or excused disobedience).*
Minimal legitimacy: What establishes minimal legitimacy? Suppose a state to be just.** That is, suppose that it respects the constraints of justice and does not act unjustly. In addition, suppose that it provides justice to those subject to its rule; it makes and enforces laws, adjudicates disputes, and provides mechanisms for collective decisions (e.g. contracts, corporate law,
local governments, parliaments). Some of the laws as well as a number of social programmes seek to effect distributive justice (...).Government in general is responsive to the just interests or wishes of the governed. A state like this would be just. Suppose in addition that it is relatively efficient in its activities. (Morris, 1998(5): chs 4 and 6).
>Justice/Morris, >Justification/Morris, >Natural justice/Political philosophy.

* 'A state's legitimacy is its exclusive right to impose new duties on subjects by initiating legally binding directives, to have those directives obeyed, and to coerce noncompliers' (Simmons, 1999(1): 137). '"Justifying the state" is normally thought to mean showing that there are umversal obligations to obey the law... [T]he goal of justification of the state is to show that, in principle, everyone within its territories is morally bound to follow its laws and edicts' (Wolff, 1996(2): 42).

** 'Without justice, what are kingdoms but great robber bands?' (Augustine, 1984(3): 30). 'Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought' Rawls, 1971(4): 3).

1. Simmons, A. John (1999) 'Justification and legitimacy'. In his Justification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 122-57.
2. Wolff, Jonathan (1996) An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. Augustine (1994 [1425]) Political Writings, eds E. Fortin and D. Kries, trans. M. Tracz and D. Kries. Indianapolis: Hackett.
4. Rawls, John (1971) A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
5. Morris, Christopher W. (1998) An Essay on the Modern State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Morris, Christopher W. 2004. „The Modern State“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Morris, Christopher W.
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004

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