Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

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


Author Info

  • Biegoń, Dominika
  • Gronau, Jennifer
  • Schmidtke, Henning
Registered author(s):


    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.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

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

    as in new window
    Date of creation: 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:169

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: Parkallee 39, 28209 Bremen
    Phone: 0421/218-4362
    Fax: 0421/218-7540
    Web page:
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research


    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
    as in new window
    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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)



    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:169. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.