21 November 2013

Legitimacy in World Politics

Lost Legitimacy. (2013, November 19). Foreign Affairs. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from

As always, the folks at Foreign Affairs come through with a thought provoking read that’s directly tied to our IB Glopo syllabus topics. Ian Bremmer’s essay (published today) is no different; he tackles the topic of legitimacy, something that is often overlooked when we focus our attention at more concrete challenges like public health or armed conflict. In IB Glopo, we understand legitimacy as, “a contested term providing the fundamental basis or rationale for all forms of governance. The most accepted contemporary form of legitimacy is some form of democracy or constitutionalism whereby the governed have a defined and periodical opportunity to choose who they wish to exercise power over them.” Please take the time to read Bremmer’s article (citation above) and then comment to this blog post on how you feel Bremmer addresses the concept of legitimacy. For myself, I find it interesting that so much of the debate around what constitutes legitimacy in democratic societies comes down to a fundamental push and pull between domestic political forces and the international environment; what Robert Putman coined as two level games (Putnam, R. D. (1988). Diplomacy and domestic politics: The logic of two-level games. International Organization, 42(03), 427-460. Retrieved from ttp:// In contrast, authoritarian societies generally only deal with questions of legitimacy from other actors external to their own societies, or those oppositional groups within the state who usually lack the power to do much about it. Bremmer is spot on with his pessimism regarding the future progress towards increase legitimacy around the globe when he writes, “political leaders around the world now face extraordinary pressures that will both increase their accountability and limit their room to maneuver.” What are your thoughts on this? Please take the time to read, think and reply over the Thanksgiving break.