Asian Security Practice: Material and Ideational Influences

By Muthiah Alagappa | Go to book overview

3
Contestation and Crisis

MUTHIAH ALAGAPPA

THAT the control of state power requires legitimation is universally recognized, but success in this endeavor has eluded many governments. Legitimacy, as noted by David Beetham, appears to be "as much the exception as the rule." 1 It is frequently contested, and legitimacy crises are not uncommon. Why is political legitimation difficult? Why is legitimacy contested? Why do legitimacy crises occur? These questions are explored in this chapter.


Challenges to Political Legitimation

Political legitimation faces formidable challenges in nearly all modern states. These challenges relate to the difficulties associated with selfregulation in a sovereign state, the government's incapacity to satisfy the ever increasing demands on it, and the dynamic nature of legitimacy itself. 2 The norm of sovereignty, a distinctive feature of the modern state, places a premium on self-regulation in all domestic matters, particularly the political domain. But the concentration of power in the state required to realize the notion of supreme authority makes self-regulation exceedingly difficult, especially in relation to the acquisition and exercise of political power (the second and third elements of legitimacy). Since political power is the key to the control of state resources and since it is concentrated in the state (especially in an interventionist state), competition for the control of state power is intense -- making self-regulation vulnerable to disruption.

Effective self-regulation in a democratic state, for example, requires satisfaction of a number of conditions. At the normative level, the political

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