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Quote 164,291

"Hegemony- refers to the ability of a dominant class to exercise power by winning consent of those it subjugates, as an alternative to coercion."


"The ascendency or domination of one element of a system over others- idea being common sense of the age."

   --  Andrew Heywood

manufactured consent 

"False Consciousness: A Marxist term denoting the delusion and mystification that prevents subordinate classes from recognising the fact of their own exploitation"

   --  Andrew Heywood

What is legitimacy?

Legitimacy is the popular acceptance of Authority. It is considered a basic condition for governing.

History of legitimacy

Legitimacy of the state has been contested as long as we have had leaders. Kings and queens spent great effort to prove and maintain their appearance of legitimacy. Things have not changed for the modern state.

If legitimacy is lost

Legitimacy needs to be proven domestically and internationally.  A loss of legitimacy internationally can lead to invasion and loss of influence on foreign countries.

A loss of legitimacy domestically can lead to a coup or a revolution. This can lead to unstable regimes or anarchy. An illegitimate government may lose control, of the police, army, or suffer civil disobedience as has happened in India and The USA.


The state can be legitimised by tradition, religion, military force, or popular consent.


Kings, Queens and emperors have often relied on traditions to determine who the rightful ruler of the state should be, the first male son usually would take the mantle of leader of the state.


Countries such as Iran operate a Theocracy, where the Ayatollah has the final say.

Military force

Countries like Burma and North Korea rely on a strong military force to maintain power

Popular consent

In most western countries Democracies of one form or another are in operation. They have many different methods of voting in a Government. No system is perfect and each calls in to account the legitimacy of the governing party. For example two of the most popular forms of electoral systems are the “first past the post method” and “proportional representation”. The first past the post method elects candidates based on whom gets the most votes per constituency.  The legitimacy of this system occurs as its possible for a candidate to be elected without having majority of the votes. Also even if they have a majority of the votes, they will not necessarily have the support of those who do not vote. A lot of votes in this system are wasted. The proportion representation method ensures that no votes are wasted as positions of power are allocated on the basis of the percentage of votes.  However this system has the downside it quite often leads to coalitions and a minor party can exert undue influence. It also has the downside that you don’t actually get to choose who your representative is, they tend to be on a list. 

Always consenting

Take this example. A prohibitionists law gets enacted which you oppose.
If you voted for the prohibitionist then you are told you consented.
If you voted against the prohibitionist you are told you took part in the procedure of which the decision was made. So must be bound by the outcome.
If you didn't vote or didn't have an opinion, then you are told, you can't complain as you forfeited your right to influence the outcome.

As Herbert Spencer said "curiously enough, it seems that he gave his consent in whatever way he acted — whether he said yes, whether he said no, or whether he remained neuter! A rather awkward doctrine this. "

If you always consent, regardless of what you say and do, it then non-consent means consent and makes a mockery of consent.

Don't move - then you are consenting
Those that argue, that if you don't like what is happening "Then Move!" otherwise you are implicitly consenting are missing some points.
The decision to stay somewhere, depends on more factors than whether you are consenting. It could be your family are there, your job is there, or moving is too onerous.
If a gang took over your town and you stayed, that hardly infers consent.

Another argument, is you enjoy the benefits, so you must bear the costs. But this is tantamount to saying you must put up with anything if there is any perceived benefit.

How the state is contested


The state can be contested externally and internally. Externally it has the threat of invasion, Economic influence or cultural influences. Religion is an example of this, non theocratic states are always afraid of secular influences as it undermines their ability to rule. While secular states can be under attack from religious fundamentalists.


Internal pressures can come from a variety of sources, the most severe being a civil war as is occurring in Syria, or a military coup that has plagued many nations in Africa and countries such as Turkey and Pakistan. In democracy, it can come from poor management of Governments leading to a rising in the anarchist movement, or from ideologies such as communism, an fascism, leading to a revolution in the way the government is chosen.


See "Always consenting" above

Any part of state that exceeds its bounds can be considered illegitimate.

For a state that claims to get its power from the people, then it must get its powers from the people.
A state in this case cannot have powers that an individual does not have.

If it is assumed people do not have a right to kill as an act of aggression, then neither does that state.
In this case you may not kill anyone for any reason other than self defence.
But many governments who claim people may not kill, end up with the power to kill anyone for any whim. Some examples below.
China how many million?
Russia how many million?
Germany how many million?
Iran how many million?

If you would like to suggest that somehow the state does have this power, you would need to point from where this power is derived.
Or that the individual has this power.

The same can apply for theft.
You may not steal of anyone for any reason including the survival or betterment of anyone you know.
But the State may take off you for any reason no matter who whimsical, just or unjust.

Passage from friends essay

Timothy Mitchell’s concept of ‘The State Effect’ suggests that through the mediocre tasks that the public complete every day, the state is legitimised.  People interact with the state every day in many different ways that they do not connect with the state.  Taking the kids to the park – the council provide the parks, funded by Council Tax which is paid by each member of the state. The roads and pavements that are walked on are looked after by money from the state.  They are managed by institutions of the state.  There are ‘State Actors’, people that work for the state, who are responsible for providing services, for example, Police, Social Services, Civil Servants and Council workers.  Through these individuals or organisation the state becomes accepted by the public and is therefore legitimate.  The use of symbolic state symbols, such as, the road signs, flags, political parties, national anthem and Citizenship Ceremonies help to build a strong association with country and state.  All of these things create a permanent idea of the state and provides structure, familiarity and order to social life. 



Subpages (1): Controlling electors