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Magic mirror on the wall, who in the world is legitimate after all? Legitimacy claims of international institutions

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  • Biegoń, Dominika
  • Gronau, Jennifer
  • Schmidtke, Henning
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    Abstract

    The legitimacy of international institutions is a contested issue both in terms of concept formation and empirical evidence and attracts attention from across the political sciences. The present contribution posits a relational concept of legitimacy that includes self-justification of rulers on the one hand, and legitimacy beliefs of the ruled on the other hand. By taking a top-down perspective, our conceptual section explores an underdeveloped aspect in the field of legitimacy research. We posit that the analysis of political elites' self-legitimations can considerably contribute to our understanding of governing activities and provide a more thorough picture of legitimation processes. These practices play a key role in transforming mere power into popularly accepted, stable authority and have an essentially communicative nature. Hence, self-legitimations are amenable to discourse analysis. In this conjunction, the paper assumes that the media functions as a discursive battleground creating a space for positive or negative evaluations of political orders, including affirmative contributions of the representatives of challenged organizations themselves. The conceptual and theoretical link between legitimacy, self-legitimizing practices, and discourse analysis is further developed in the first section of the paper. Subsequently, our conceptualization of self-legitimizing practices is empirically exemplified. Our explorative study of self-legitimating statements of representatives of three major international institutions (EU, G8, and UN) in media discourses is based on a large qualitative data-set which analyzes legitimacy discourses in two high-quality newspapers in four Western democracies (GB, US, DE, and CH) over a period of ten years (1998-2007). Our empirical findings demonstrate that international institutions' formal representatives and member states actively take part in the process of legitimation. Hence, global governance arrangements are not only objects of legitimacy demands, but at the same time cultivators of their own legitimacy. -- Die Legitimität internationaler Institutionen stellt sowohl hinsichtlich der Konzeptualisierung als auch hinsichtlich empirischer Ergebnisse ein umstrittenes Thema dar. Dieser Beitrag stellt ein relationales Konzept von Legitimität vor, das Selbstrechtfertigungen von Herrschern genauso in den Blick nimmt wie den Legitimitätsglauben der Beherrschten. Die in diesem Papier vorgestellte top-down Perspektive auf Legitimationsprozesse beleuchtet einen unterentwickelten Aspekt in der bisherigen empirischen Legitimitätsforschung: Die Selbstlegitimationen politischer Eliten. Die Analyse derselben trägt zu einem besseren Verständnis von Herrschaftspraktiken bei und zeichnet ein genaueres Bild von Legitimationsprozessen. Durch ihre Selbstlegitimationen sind sie bemüht, die öffentlichen Bewertungen über die durch sie vertretenen Institutionen positiv zu beeinflussen. Selbstlegitimationen werden kommunikativ vermittelt und können deshalb diskursanalytisch untersucht werden. In diesem Kontext kommt Medien eine Schlüsselrolle zu. Sie stellen eine diskursive Arena dar, in der sowohl positive als auch negative Bewertungen politischer Ordnungen vorgenommen werden und in der die politischen Herrscher versuchen, sich zu rechtfertigen. Die konzeptionelle und theoretische Verbindung zwischen Legitimität, Selbstlegitimationen und Diskursanalyse wird im ersten Teil des Papiers entwickelt. Im zweiten Teil des Papiers wird unsere Konzeptualisierung von Selbstlegitimationen empirisch illustriert. Unsere explorative Studie von Selbstlegitimationen von Repräsentanten dreier internationaler Institutionen (EU,G8 und UN) im medialen Diskurs basiert auf einer großen qualitativen Datengrundlage, welche den Legitimitätsdiskurs in jeweils zwei Qualitätszeitungen in vier westlichen Demokratien (GB, US, DE und CH) über einen Zeitraum von zehn Jahren erfasst. Unsere empirischen Ergebnisse zeigen, dass internationale Institutionen nicht nur Adressaten von Legitimitätsforderungen sind, sondern durch Selbstlegitimationen aktiv zu ihrer eigenen Legitimierung beitragen.

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    Paper provided by University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State in its series TranState Working Papers with number 169.

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    Date of creation: 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:169

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    1. Allen Buchanan, 2011. "Reciprocal legitimation: Refraining the problem of international legitimacy," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 10(1), pages 5-19, February.
    2. Kevin Featherstone, 1994. "Jean Monnet and the 'Democratic Deficit' in the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(2), pages 149-170, 06.
    3. Hurd, Ian, 1999. "Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(02), pages 379-408, March.
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