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  Legitimation (Latin, ‘making lawful’), in politics, is the manner and process by which a state or political system receives justification. A political order is legitimate if considered valid by the population. In classical civilization, legitimate power was simply lawful power. In modern discussions of political legitimacy lawfulness and morality have been separated. Governments can have legal authority without having moral legitimacy.

The sociologist Max Weber (1864 - 1920) made an important contribution to the understanding of legitimacy. Weber stressed the importance of followers\' beliefs. He distinguished between legal-rational authority, which rests on the belief in the legality of rules on which those with authority act; traditional authority, which rests on the acceptance of those chosen to rule in accordance with the customs and practices of tradition; and charismatic authority, which rests on devotion to an individual leader believed to possess exceptional powers. These three types are ‘ideal’ or ‘pure’ types.

Legitimation crisis, a term coined by J. Habermas (see below) refers to the difficulties created for modern political systems, depending as they do on popular ‘consent’ to maintain their political authority in meeting major social problems. Habermas sees these problems as arising from the need of the capitalist system to accumulate capital on the one hand and increased popular demand for social equality on the other. Failure to reconcile these contradictory pressures leads to a legitimation crisis, he argues. DA

See also bureaucracy; capital; charisma; collective behaviour; discourse; dominant ideology; hegemony; ideal type; ideology; power; social construction of reality; social control; social movement; society; sociology of knowledge; state.Further reading J. Habermas, Legitimation Crisis; , J.G. Merquior, Rousseau and Weber: Two studies in the Theory of Legitimacy.



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