Law and Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 565–592

The Asymmetry of Legitimacy


DOI: 10.1007/s10982-012-9132-7

Cite this article as:
van der Vossen, B. Law and Philos (2012) 31: 565. doi:10.1007/s10982-012-9132-7


State legitimacy is often said to have two aspects: an internal and an external one. Internally, a legitimate state has the right to rule over its subjects. Externally, it has a right that outsiders not interfere with its domestic governance. But what is the relation between these two aspects? In this paper, I defend a conception of legitimacy according to which these two aspects are related in an importantly asymmetrical manner. In particular, a legitimate state’s external right to rule affords it protections that include and go beyond what its internal right to rule enables it to do. This asymmetrical view, I argue, is preferable to its two main rivals: the view that a state’s internal and external legitimacy are separate issues, and the view that internal and external legitimacy are mirroring.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of North Carolina GreensboroGreensboroUSA