The Strength of Weak Legitimacy: A Cultural Analysis of Legitimacy in Capitalist, Liberal, Democratic Nation-States

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Abstract

Adapting Granovetter’s idea of the ‘strength of weak ties’ (1973), this article argues that capitalist, liberal democratic nation-states (‘liberal societies’) distribute both power and processes of legitimation widely across society. Against the view that such societies are only weakly legitimate, relying primarily on ideological hegemony, I argue that they enjoy real, but highly systemically diffused legitimacy. To advance this argument I consider some of the inherent problems in studying legitimacy in liberal contexts, and offer a preliminary outline of a cultural analysis of liberal legitimacy, exploring how legitimation processes are embedded in state-economy relations, civil society structures, public-private distinctions, and competition as a ubiquitous social form. In this way I aim to encourage a more sociocultural, and less state-centric understanding of power and its legitimation in liberal society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-216
JournalJournal of Political Power
Volume4
Issue number2
Early online date2 Aug 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

Keywords

  • legitimacy
  • hegemony
  • liberal society
  • state-economy interdependence
  • civil society
  • public/private dichotomy
  • competition
  • cultural analysis

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