Legitimacy is a crucial aspect of all power relations. Without legitimacy, power is exerted through coercion; with legitimacy, power can be exerted through voluntary or quasi-voluntary compliance. Legitimacy lies at the core of state-citizen relationships and thus of the whole state-building agenda.
This Topic Guide explores the meaning of legitimacy in relation to state and armed non-state actors. It examines the dominant meanings of legitimacy used in international development and analyses how these have emerged. It also identifies and uses alternative conceptualisations of legitimacy to interpret the evidence on the relationship between legitimacy and service delivery, institutions, international interventions, social media and religion/ideology. Finally, it discusses approaches used by donors to either increase state legitimacy or to measure the legitimacy of an intervention. It analyses current tools used by donors for their relevance to understanding legitimacy, and also assesses the relevance of new tools and methodologies designed specifically to analyse and measure legitimacy.
McCullough, A. The legitimacy of states and armed non-state actors: Topic guide. Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2015) 36 pp.