The Legitimation of Power by David Beetham

By David Beetham

The recent variation of this vintage textual content presents a finished creation to the idea that of legitimacy as utilized to political systems. Now addressing the problem of legitimacy past the country, the publication also includes a brand new creation and significant extra chapters which replace the argument within the gentle of advancements and debates.

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All societies find it necessary to regulate the access to and exercise of power; and wherever power is organised and distributed in accordance with social rules - in the spheres of production and reproduction, in the family and the economy, as well as the polity - these rules stand in need of legitimation. Legitimacy is an important aspect of power in all these spheres. How we define what is 'political' is a matter of convenience and focus of interest. In so far as the power of gender and property are the subject of legitimation, involving reference to law and convention, the public justification 40 The Legitimation of Power of rules and the organisation of consent, these forms of power are eminently 'political' in the broadest sense of the word.

Secondly, the account of power I give, like that of legitimacy in the first chapter, is not intended to be historically limited, in the sense of applying to only one society or historical period. It is therefore couched at a level of generality which may require qualification, and certainly elaboration, in particular contexts, 42 Power and its Need of Legitimation 43 but which is nevertheless appropriate to my purpose. The first part of the chapter will seek to clarify what power is, and what having power over someone entails.

Finally I have shown that legitimate power sets limits to the powerful through the normative expectations and principles it embodies, and that an analysis of these norms and principles is essential to understanding the distinctive character and institutions of a given system of power. Throughout I have been critical of realist or sceptical theories of power, which I have shown to be based on either a faulty analysis of power, or an impoverished conception of human nature. If power is one person's ability to achieve their purposes through others, then it cannot be a matter of capacities and resources alone, but also depends on the degree of the others' willingness to cooperate.

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