Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The legitimacy of any system of power, including that of its individual power holders, lies in the degree to which it is acknowledged as rightful, both by those involved with and subject to it and by third parties whose support and recognition it may depend on. Although the definition of legitimacy as rightful power or authority is a widely agreed-on one, much else about the subject is strongly contested: How significant is legitimacy to the maintenance and effectiveness of power relations? Who are the key audiences for legitimacy claims? What exactly is it that makes power rightful? How is legitimacy created and maintained? What are the key features differentiating the legitimacy of different political systems, and what are their respective strengths and vulnerabilities? This entry treats these main points of disagreement in turn. A useful starting point is to distinguish between a philosophical and a social-scientific approach to the study ...