Monday, July 03, 2006

Lopez on Legitimacy

J Lopez has an interesting take on the concept of “legitimacy”:

When you’re never really given a free choice in the matter, should your acquiescence in government be taken as assent?

The concept of legitimacy has always been problematic for me. Certainly, it is useful to think about the degree to which a government enjoys the cooperation of its subjects in their own governance. But this may derive, as Lopez points out, from fear or resignation rather than happy assent.

And assent is usually gained only through fraud and careful indoctrination. Is a government “legitimate” when it acquires loyalty only through years of government schooling and propagandizing of children to turn them into obedient subjects? How can this loyalty be characterized as voluntary? This process may, in fact, be hardly less expensive for the state than the outright repression of hostile subjects on the verge of revolt.

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