Identified as the “practice of state recognition, constituting a political community as a member of the society of states with the concomitant rights and responsibilities, and legitimating its participation in the practices of international society”1, legitimation is often viewed as an integral part of the concept of a state.
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Despite the fact that the process of state legitimation based on the original definition of Weber presupposes the immediate involvement of every citizen into the political and legal structuring of the state and the creation of the circumstances, in which the state “claims legitimacy from its citizens”2, the actual introduction of legitimation into the fully transparent communicational society involves the unceasing adaptation of the abovementioned environment to the realities of the present-day realm and the changes that the society undergoes, including the alterations in the political, social, economic and technological domains. Herein the proof for Blakeley and Saward’s claim of the contemporary state being engulfed into a continuous process of legitimation lies.
First and most obvious, it should be noted that the legitimization process cannot be viewed outside of the context of the alterations, which the contemporary society has undergone over the past few years. To be more exact, the issue of technology and its role in the political and social life of the society should be brought up. Though often underrated to the point where it becomes merely a tool for interpersonal communication, information technologies of the 21st century create the premises for a more expeditious and a by far more efficient engagement in the political and social life of the state.
The continuous evolution of the technological advances, with the help of which the political and social engagement of the state’s citizens is facilitated, can be viewed as the proof for the legitimation being an unceasing process as well. More to the point, the incorporation of the latest technologies into the process of state legitimization can be considered a solid proof for the fact that the state development hinges on the extent, to which the citizens are engrossed into the process of legitimization, thus, contributing to the evolution of the state’s legal, political and economic development.
The role of symbols and images, as well as the changes that the specified elements undergo over time, should also be mentioned as the key proof to the fact that legitimization of the state, as well as the increased involvement of the state citizens with the process, is the ultimate path to the democratization of the society. Whether the symbols and the realities associated with a particular political system are utilized in a rather subtle way and with regard to the psychology of individuals, or whether the symbols of the state and its power get their message across in a very on-the-nose manner, the presence of these symbols defines the legitimation process to a considerable extent.
One might argue that the process of legitimation has already occurred in the contemporary state, seeing that the key concepts of democracy make the basis of the contemporary British society and that the specified phenomenon can only be viewed as a certain stage in the progress of the state. Indeed, legitimation can be interpreted as a stage of the state evolution, which the contemporary society has already passed with the introduction of democracy into the state political system and, therefore, the provision of the access to the state political life to its citizens.
The phenomenon known as the legitimization crisis can also be regarded as the evidence of the impossibility for the legitimization process to occur within the contemporary society; consequently, the assumption of legitimization being only a stage of the state’s evolution, and in some cases unattainable one at that, emerges. The idea of rendering legitimization of state power as merely a part of the state development can be supported by the numerous examples of the countries, where totalitarian principles or similar methods used to restrict the effects of citizens onto the government and its decision are employed at the legal level. The deployment of the principles, which neither fit the context of a state in question, nor lead to positive relationships between the state and the society, leads to the disintegration of the legitimization principles and, therefore, the cessation of the process. As a result, the states, which refuse to accept the principles of positive state–society relationships, skip the legitimization phenomenon and proceed to the establishment of totalitarian principles. Consequently, it will be reasonable to assume that the existence of the countries, where legitimization is viewed only as a stage, which does not necessarily have to be included into the development process, defy the very concept of legitimization and, hence, distort the concept of the present-day world as a realm of democracy and the manifestation of people’s rights and freedoms.
A closer look at the very concept of legitimization will reveal, however, that the aforementioned issue cannot be viewed outside of the context of the social, economic, technological and cultural evolution of society. The aforementioned domains of people’s lives serve as the environment, in which a citizen of a specific state, the United Kingdom in the given case, is capable of executing their power to affect the way, in which their needs are addressed and their interests are represented by the government. However, of all the domains listed above, the cultural one seems to be of the greatest essence; it is imperative that the way, in which people perceive reality, should be shaped so that the principles of equity and, therefore, legitimation, should be integrated successfully with the key principles of the current society.
The fact that a range of states refuse from complying with the basic principles of human rights, therefore, slackening the process of legitimization within the contemporary society, can be viewed as the proof for the phenomenon in question being not a continuous process, but only a stage of state development, not necessarily integrated into the realm of the present-day world. The existence of positive tendencies in the overall evolution, however, increases the probability for the legitimating process to be taking place at present. One must admit that the specified process occurs at different paces depending on the state, in which it takes place; however, whether the example of the United Kingdom or any other European state, as well as the USA, is considered, the alterations occurring at different levels of state power show a very strong tendency towards the legitimization of power worldwide.
When addressing the issue of legitimization, one must also take the fact that it is guided by the principles of consent rather than it is enhanced by the idea of coercion. To be more exact, the legitimacy of the state and its power should be derived from the basic concept of human rights. A careful evaluation of some of the states will reveal that not all of them comply with the principles of equality. In fact, even in the countries, where democracy is heralded as the foundation for building social, political and economic relationships on, some of the social institutions feature a deplorable lack of equity; for example, in the United States, racial profiling seems to have become notorious for a range of educational establishments, whereas in such states as Saudi Arabia, the issue of gender equity has remained unresolved for quite a while3. Triggering a legitimation crisis within the state, such tendencies deserve being paid greater attention to so that the process of legitimation should not be hindered.
Nevertheless, the evolution of a particular state, especially the development of legitimating within it, cannot be evaluated outside of the cultural and historical context of the state environment. Therefore, what may appear as rather shocking and inappropriate for the representatives of the Western culture may be viewed as a major breakthrough in less democratic states. As Bromley, Clarke, Hinchliffe and Taylor put is, “Arguably, there is no non-democracy that cannot be a democracy, and no democracy that cannot be more democratic”4. While it is necessary to introduce people to the key ideas of democracy, it will be unreasonable to demand for the members of a particular society to refuse from adopting the principles that their identity is rooted in. Hence, even the reconsideration of some of the legal principles that do not coincide with the foundations of democracy can be viewed as a major progress for some states.
Bank, B. J., Gender and education: an encyclopedia, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, CT, 2007.
Bromley, Simon, Clarke, John, Hinchliffe, Steve and Taylor, Stephanie, Exploiting social lives, Buckinghamshire, UK, The Open University Press, 2009.
Zaum, Dominik, Legitimating international organizations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2013.
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- Dominik Zaum, Legitimating international organizations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2013, p. 12.
- Simon Bromley, John Clarke, Steve Hinchliffe and Stephanie Taylor, Exploting social lives, Buckinghamshire, UK, The Open University Press, 2009, p. 366.
- Barbara J. Bank, Gender and education: an encyclopedia, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, CT, 2007, p. 205.
- Simon Bromley, John Clarke, Steve Hinchliffe and Stephanie Taylor, Exploting social lives, Buckinghamshire, UK, The Open University Press, 2009, p. 368.