Legitimacy and Politics: A Contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility

Legitimacy and Politics: A Contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility

Legitimacy and Politics: A Contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility

Legitimacy and Politics: A Contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility

Synopsis

Instances of corruption, extremism, and public distrust have increasingly raised the question of political legitimacy in recent years. The author examines the issue by looking at the conditions necessary for a "rule of law" to exist. He argues that in a democracy the greater the powers given to a political leader, the greater that leader's responsibilities toward society. In order to enjoy legitimacy therefore, our rulers must assume these responsibilities and be held accountable for them. This book will be of interest to political and social theorists and political philosophers.

Excerpt

What is political legitimacy? Under what conditions can one speak of a politically legitimate situation? Though simple in their formulation, these questions are nevertheless complicated. Providing satisfactory responses to them presupposes that one is able to surmount a certain number of problems, one of the foremost being the notion of political judgement.

Facing up to such a notion boils down, in effect, to appealing to a 'faculty of judgement' in the political domain. That faculty consists in evaluating the decisions and actions of rulers and institutions who are charged with ensuring that society runs well. It presupposes that the question of the criteria for political judgement has been elucidated– that is to say, that the conditions for the validity of those elements that allow for an evaluation of the just character of political relations have been established. Now, in what, precisely, do those conditions consist? Where are they to be found? How is one to assure oneself of their reliability?

Because of its complexity, the theme of legitimacy occupies a paradoxical position in contemporary political thought. On the one hand, it is granted that legitimacy is essential to the operation of political life. Legitimacy is therefore taken into account in analyses whose objective is to describe and to explain its mechanisms. And if one were to rank the terms to which political observers have recourse in their work, the word legitimacy would arrive in the top grouping. Only rarely do writings on this topic and observers of the political scene ignore this notion.

On the other hand, the treatment of the concept of legitimacy often brings out a certain reticence. Although legitimacy is indissociable from the faculty of judgement, most works and reflections that make use of it are loath to take into account the dimension of judgement it implies. They refuse to conduct research into the conditions for the right to govern by inquiring about the criteria used to evaluate political life. Max Weber's analyses of legitimacy, as we shall see, have a great deal to do with this phenomenon.

The situation surrounding this question is therefore quite troubling. The importance of the notion of legitimacy is recognised, as is attested . . .

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