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.
- liberal society
- state-economy interdependence
- civil society
- public/private dichotomy
- cultural analysis