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The Normative Structure of Legitimacy

  • David Beetham
Chapter
Part of the Issues in Political Theory book series (IPT)

Abstract

This chapter has a number of purposes which it will be as well to distinguish at the outset. Most basic is to elaborate the threefold structure of legitimacy as rule-derived validity, the justifiability of power rules, and expressed consent; and to consider some problems relating to them that I have not so far addressed. Within this structure, secondly, I propose to explore some of the main differences between legitimating principles, beliefs and forms of consent that characterise different historical epochs and types of legitimate power relations. If my treatment here appears overly schematic, it is because this is the only way to achieve a manageable grasp of such a diverse range of material. My final purpose will be to exemplify at appropriate points what I have called the self-fulfilling character of legitimate power: the way in which systems of power themselves structure many of the beliefs, interests and conditions of consent that provide for their legitimation; and to identify the kinds of circumstance in which this self-reinforcing cycle tends to break down. Since this last theme forms the subject of Chapter 4, my treatment of it here will not be systematic.

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Copyright information

© David Beetham 1991

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  • David Beetham

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