Things to Be Legitimized for Government to Proceed
The issue of legitimacy is closely tied with the issues of power, stability, and government. It seems that legitimacy problems could have become the primary interest of societal agents after political and economic power developed as in certain way autonomous spheres of society. This is connected with a growing division between physical, administrative, and intellectual labor, the stabilization of private property in the hands of oligarchy and new-formed ruling dynasties.
All these processes were, in their turn, connected with the growing role of the state as the organizer of society’s daily activities and the tool for the distribution and redistribution of wealth and privileges. Drawing on Webber’s analysis of legitimacy and state, it may be noted that there are several things that are to be legitimized for the state to be effective and successful. First of all, it is the origins of power and its personal holders embodied in the ruling dynasty, monarch, and the like.
As Webber notes, there exist considerable differences in the way different types of governments legitimize themselves. Authoritarian rulers legitimize themselves through their alleged personal qualities of charisma, as a spiritual leader of nation, courage, and divination. Democratic leader exploits other modes of legitimacy such as peoples’ choice at the elections, international recognition, effective policies, etc.
The second element of legitimacy is the legitimization of power, social and economic relations in society, including dominant principles of income distribution, labor relations, ethical and behavioral maxims, etc.
These modes of legitimization come about with the help of dominant ideology, which may be as earlier in history be embodied in religion or as now in modern political and economic ideologies. For instance, Christian religion as an ideology was historically disseminated by monarch dynasties and the church as the dominant principles of morality and behavior. Many elements that were incorporated in Christianity had to do with the certain prejudiced ethical obligation that served the reproduction of existing power relations in society.
For instance, Christian dogmas adopted by the Catholic church declared that life is marked by such things as original sin, which is an inherently brutal and sinful human nature that should be cured by containing physical pleasures, self-realization, and engaging in permanent repentance for own and others’ sins. Violence protests were described as sins that are punished not only by God but by law: in this way, people were told that if they followed certain ethical maxims during their life, they would be rewarded in heaven. These examples show that religion served as a crucial legitimization tool of existing social relations of control, obedience, and polarization between classes.
The third object of legitimization may be described as the legitimization of national and external policies of the government. There is no denying the importance of the fact that the reproduction of certain power requires creating a certain feeling of community and a common future. When feudal relations prevailed, this problem did not arise since the polarization between classes took the form of separate ways of life, rights, and societal obligations. General conscription and education didn’t exist, and therefore aristocracy and bureaucracy formed an army, intelligence, and other important institutions.
The situation was changed, however, when the ‘ancient regime’ was toppled and new power relations appeared in society. Universalization of rights, education, and democratization of power were amongst the crucial causes for adopting the notion of nation and developing national sentiments of the populace.
From that time on, as B. Anderson certifies nationalism and its symbols became the crucial elements of government’s legitimization. Government and ruling elites positioned themselves as the defenders of national interests and sovereignty and, in this way, were legitimized. To sum it up, we briefly outlined the basic elements of government legitimization in society. It should be mentioned, though, that the patterns of legitimization considerably depend on the existing model of social relations, type of government constitution, dynamics of power relations, and available ideologies that legitimize the political regime.