Now that you already know about the political institutions and how they hold power, you will learn how they maintain it. For this part of the unit, you will have 2️⃣ tasks: define legitimacy and describe the source of legitimacy, and then describe how governments maintain legitimacy.
Legitimacy is when a government's constituents believe their government has the right to use power in the way it does. Legitimacy is important in both authoritarian 👑regimes and democratic 🙋🏾♀️regimes!
Now that we have a definition, we need to understand where this legitimacy comes from. Sources of legitimacy for both authoritarian 👑 and democratic 🙋🏾♀️regimes can come from popular elections, tradition, economic success, religion, constitutions, and/or the dominant political party's endorsement. Let's explore the main sources of legitimacy for each of our countries of study.
The UK 🇬🇧—Tradition and stability. Keep calm and carry on.
Russia🇷🇺—Tradition and nationalism. Pre-dates Russia's constitution and enormous pride in political and economic advances, especially since the end of the Cold War.
China🇨🇳—Revolution and economic growth. Mao and the second largest GDP in the world give legitimacy.
Iran🇮🇷—Revolution and religion. The 1979 religious revolution can be traced back to this revolution and the traditions of Shia Islam.
Mexico🇲🇽—Revolution and constitution. First social revolution of the 20th century, and a great deal of pride in the creation of the constitution as a result of the revolution.
Nigeria🇳🇬—Independence and constitution. Big role in the development of Africa and their arrival at independence from British rule. Very proud of 1999 constitution and the expansion of political freedoms.
Now, let's take a look at different sources of legitimacy and check one example for each:
|Source of legitimacy
|Importance + Example
|Concept: It is a movement that emphasizes interest in a nation in particular. It can be a positive force that provides unity, as well as one that will promote wars and territorial claims. Example: Iranian nationalism 🇮🇷 is highly associated with the 1979 revolution, which brought a new regime to power and defined its political landscape. By viewing this transformation as a positive change in its history, Iranian people engage in trying to preserve its political system and culture from foreign intervention. This is a source of legitimacy.
|Concept: It is tied to long adopted beliefs, practices and customs from a society. It is often viewed as a source of stability in a country. By providing the continuation of tradition, governments can earn legitimacy, as the population will most likely agree that the government is fulfilling expectations that come from tradition. Example: Russia's 🇷🇺 tradition of Imperialism, which consists of annexing other territories and expanding its wealth, is a historical legacy that is still adopted by the government today.
Concept: It refers to the capability of the government to fulfill its goals and expectations. In addition, governmental effectiveness is important to indicate the quality of a government to the people. Example: in the UK 🇬🇧 the government is considered to be overall qualified to perform its duties because its political institutions are considered to be powerful and well-established, being one of the oldest democracies of the world.
|Concept: it is tied to the ability of the government to grow and develop domestically and internationally. Economic growth is important to demonstrate to citizens that the country is "on the right track." It also increases their individual economic perspectives, which consequently improves their quality of life and they care able to attribute that improvement to the government. Example: after the downfall of the soviet union in 1991, Russia 🇷🇺 had a couple of years of economic growth💰, which helped to legitimize its government transition.
Concept: Ideology consists of a set of values and beliefs that a group of people resonate with, and it can be political or not. Around the world, many political parties refer to cultural and traditional values to emphasize its role in the government. Example: The Chinese 🇨🇳 government draws from the Marxist-Leninist theory to construct its party (the CPC) ideology. Since 1921 the party has adopted issues of class struggle and collective ownership as the foundation of the Chinese government. By following these principles the government is fulfilling its expectations and building legitimacy.
In this guide you've read that political legitimacy stems from a consolidated power dynamic between political institutions and actors. In the next guide, you will read about how governments can sustain it. 💪