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.
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