Modern theories of the legitimacy of power - Political Sociology

Modern theories of power legitimacy

The transition from the traditional to the modern society posed to the political authorities additional tasks concerning the problem of legitimacy. Political power in a modern industrial society needs not so much charismatic leaders as mass support.

The support of the political system asserts the objectivity of its existence, and therefore, what is especially important, is the belief in the legitimacy of the system itself. American political scientist D. Easton connects legitimacy with the truth and justice of the authorities themselves. Legitimacy expresses the fact that an individual in an implicit or explicit form perceives a political object as corresponding to his own moral principles, and his own subjective sensations of the true and fair coincide with the true and fair in the political sphere. Thus, certain socio-psychological relations are established between the power and the individual, based on a certain value consensus. The individual perceives political power as "his" as one that acts or intends to act in his interests. This removes in his mind a negative attitude towards the authorities and forms in it an attitude or a belief in its support. Belief in the legitimacy of power shapes the conviction or belief that the government will act in accordance with the will expressed by him, that he himself is able to influence the power through legally established channels.

Based on the system analysis of power, D. Easton created in many ways a new and more functional concept of the legitimacy of power, which allowed to measure it already empirically. According to his concept, the support of the political system can be different both in terms of the object and content, and the time of the action. Depending on the time and content of support, D. Easton proposed distinguishing two main types of support: diffuse and specific.

Diffuse is a general, or fundamental, long-term, mainly affective support (belief in legitimacy, trust) of ideas and the most important principles of a political system, regardless of the outcome of its activities.

Specific - results-oriented, instrumental, short-term and mostly conscious support of the authorities and how they operate.

These differences are based on observations of different models of citizens' behavior: for example, they may sometimes disagree with the activities of their government, for example, with specific directions in politics, its representatives or management style, which in most cases forms short-term phenomena with variable intensity. However, they continue to provide fundamental, long-term support for the principles of the political system (for example, institutions and norms of democracy). Thus, the crisis of government support or the ineffectiveness of certain areas of its policy do not necessarily lead to a crisis of the whole system. Over time, dissatisfaction with certain elements of the political system (for example, parties, politicians, their specific proposals or actions in politics) can accumulate, concentrate and then lead to a gradual and often inconspicuous erosion of the legitimacy of power.

As the main sources (objects) of legitimacy, Easton derived the following grounds: ideology, structure and personal qualities. In accordance with sources of legitimacy, he identified and its main types: ideological, structural and personal.

The ideological type of legitimacy is based on values ​​and norms that divide the political regime and which it is guided by. Ideological legitimacy grows from the conviction of citizens in the correctness and truth of these values ​​and norms, from moral convictions in the validity of the regime or the origin and distribution of power roles. Accordingly, the more citizens share the values ​​and norms of the political regime, the more legitimacy it has, and vice versa, the fewer citizens trust the regime and share its values ​​and norms, the less legitimacy it has.

Obviously, in substantiating primarily ideological legitimacy, Easton proceeds from the traditions of a consensus approach in the study of power and society. Only on the basis of this approach can the agreement be justified as a starting point in relation to the fundamental values ​​and norms that should guide the political regime. Otherwise, in a society with a strong social polarization, an orientation toward confrontation and a lack of a minimum value consensus, one can hardly expect the achievement of strong ideological legitimacy. In this situation, either the political power itself can define for society what values ​​and norms are considered basic and which ones are secondary, or it will strive to balance between different value structures until the preconditions for consensus are reached in the society.

Structural type of legitimacy determines the relationship of citizens to the structure, the norms of the political regime and the distribution of power roles in it. At the heart of structural legitimacy is the conviction of citizens in the value of the structure and norms of the political regime itself. The structure of the political regime plays an extremely important role in its functioning - beginning with the reception of external impulses in the form of demands and support and ending with the process of transforming them into a certain political product that will create and realize values ​​important both for the political system itself and for the entire social system generally. The structure of the political system is key in the fulfillment of its main task or function - the adoption and implementation of power decisions. It largely determines the effectiveness of the political power, and the effectiveness itself is one of the important indicators on the basis of which citizens judge the regime as a whole. The search for the optimal structure of political power can not be limited to a certain period, the more it can not be limited to the political activities of certain political figures. It is no accident that in many countries that are characterized by stability and efficiency of political power, the search for an optimal structure did not take years, but whole decades, and in some cases stretched for centuries. It is enough here to recall the historical examples of England, the USA, France.

An important role in giving the necessary legitimacy to the government is also the nature of the distribution of power roles in the state, the structure of relations that has developed between the legislative and executive powers. Citizens should be sure that the existing distribution of power roles in the political regime is the most effective and does not create obstacles to the implementation of political decisions for their own good. Conflict or conflict in the exercise of power roles, for example, in the desire of one branch of government to subordinate the other or assigning executive power to functions of the legislative, etc., can not contribute to the formation of citizens' trust and support to existing state institutions and can not serve to strengthen general legitimacy of the regime.

Personal, or personal, type of legitimacy characterizes the attitude of citizens to persons performing power roles within the political regime.

The basis of personal legitimacy is the conviction of citizens in the validity of the power roles assigned to them. It is not so much the legal and legal side of the issue, the legality of the performance of power roles. Although this may also be the case and cause a delegitimization of power. Here we are talking more about the correspondence of the personal characteristics of a politician to the demands placed on him by the power role. Personal legitimacy presupposes the presence of constant assessments of the activities of a political person on the part of citizens. This can be reflected in opinion polls, which will either approve his behavior as performing certain power functions, or, conversely, negatively assess. It can be the publication of a rating of popularity of this or that politician, etc. In any case, the evaluation of a person's activity will be based on the basic values ​​and norms that citizens share and that unite them with the existing political regime.

Personal legitimacy personifies power within the framework of established values ​​and norms, gives it an emotional coloring, strengthens citizens' interest in politics, and prevents the depersonalization of the political process.

It is clear that all three types of legitimacy are interrelated and create the basis for legitimizing power in society. The very same legitimization of power in modern society means to be in accordance with the value preferences of citizens, which, according to the concept of Easton, are sustainable and long-term.

In the 1980s, developing a systematic analysis of political power and the concept of political support for D. Easton, the German researcher B. Westle (W. Westle) introduced a number of important additions to the original concept. After examining the reality and dynamics of legitimation processes in Western democracies, she added two mixed types of support and specified them for all three support objects.

The first mixed type was named the type of diffuse-specific support. It combines both characteristics of fundamental (diffuse) and short-term (specific) types of support. This type of support is based on the dominant role of ideological evaluation of the performance of the political system and its power structures. Thus, the legitimacy of power is based on an assessment of the extent to which a particular object corresponds in reality to the idea of ​​a political system or to individual values ​​or preferences of citizens. Therefore, this type of support does not extend to the legitimacy of the political system as a whole or to its fundamental ideals.

The second mixed type is defined by the Westle as a type of specific diffuse support. It is not based on an ideological but on an instrumental or specific evaluation of social effects obtained as a result of specific decisions and (or) results, In the course of implementation of the directions of the policy initiated by the authorities. But these assessments are associated not only with the activities of the rulers on a short-term basis (as is the case with the type of "pure" specific support), but, accumulating, they are gradually identified with the political system itself (its structures, norms, values), so this can lead to diffuse, fundamental, long-term assessments of legitimacy. Therefore, this mixed type is called specific-diffuse.

In general, D. Easton and his followers are characterized by the fact that they interpret the legitimacy of the system as its correspondence to the individual's moral principles, to his own ideas about what is fair and true in political relations. Therefore, legitimacy in their understanding is the degree to which members of the political system perceive it as worthy of their support. Such an understanding of the legitimacy of power emphasizes the active role and responsibility of the citizens themselves in the process of legitimization and leaves behind them the final decision in recognizing the power as legal and legitimate (legitimate). It seems that this position is especially important in the context of post-communist development, when the destiny of the democratic process depends on the activity and direct participation of citizens in the creation of a new political system.

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