In recent decades, the term ‘legitimacy’ has featured heavily in debates about international law and international institutions. Yet the concept of legitimacy, mercurial as it is, has remained under-scrutinized, leading to confusion and misuse. Rather than advancing a particular conception of what may make international law legitimate, this article seeks to clarify and complicate how international lawyers understand and use legitimacy as a concept. To begin, the article distinguishes between legal, moral and social legitimacy. It highlights the different ways in which these three approaches to legitimacy have been used in international law scholarship, while drawing attention to some of their more problematic tendencies. From there, it breaks the concept of legitimacy down into three major elements: its object, subject and basis. It argues that the tendency to blur these elements has led to much of the uncertainty and obfuscation in legitimacy debates. Finally, the article stresses the importance of distinguishing legitimacy from other grounds for compliance, including coercion, self-interest and habit. Ultimately, it argues that if treated with sufficient rigour, legitimacy provides a useful analytical concept for international lawyers. In doing so, it aims to encourage and facilitate the participation of international lawyers in broader inter-disciplinary debates about legitimacy.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Thomas: The Uses and Abuses of Legitimacy in International Law
Christopher A. Thomas (London School of Economics - Law) has published The Uses and Abuses of Legitimacy in International Law (Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 729-58, Winter 2014). Here's the abstract: