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Theorising political legitimisation: from stasis to processes.

Dolan, Paddy; Vertigans, Stephen; Connolly, John


Paddy Dolan

John Connolly


Legitimacy remains a key concept in political sociology, and perhaps even more so in lay understandings of political processes and structures, as evidenced by conflict over territories and regimes around the world. However, the concept suffers from a rather static representation, and even when addressed in processual form, in terms of specific moments in the process, such as conditions favouring legitimacy or its effects. Building from an Eliasian perspective, we argue for a more processual concept of legitimisation to encompass the dynamic social networks (figurations) that constitute the more unintentional context for deliberate legitimation claims. As networks expand and intensify, processes of legitimisation incorporate changing and more diverse bases for legitimacy claims, as well as a greater variety of such claims and counterclaims. As the power relations between contending groups change, legitimation practices become part of the integrating functions of the state, shaping figurations and the social habitus.


DOLAN, P., VERTIGANS, S. and CONNOLLY, J. 2024. Theorising political legitimisation: from stasis to processes. European journal of social theory [online], 27(1), pages 22-40. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 11, 2023
Online Publication Date Jul 11, 2023
Publication Date Feb 29, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 17, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jul 17, 2023
Journal European journal of social theory
Print ISSN 1368-4310
Electronic ISSN 1461-7137
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 1
Pages 22-40
Keywords Political sociology; Eliasian perspectives; Legitimisation; Legitimation practices; Figurations; Habitus; Legitimacy; Power relations; Social integration
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