Conceptualizing Legitimacy in Political Philosophy


Silje Langvatn, postdoctoral fellow, University of Oslo, Email:

Enzo Rossi, assistant professor, University of Amsterdam, Email:

Over the last decades there has been an explosion of “legitimacy-talk” in disciplines such as international relations, political science and international law. The increasing use of the concept “legitimacy”, however, is frequently accompanied by complaints that the concept lack clarity and that it is under-theorized. In political philosophy legitimacy is seldom discussed; although John Rawls’ tried to rehabilitate the concept in Political Liberalism, it largely continues to play second fiddle to justice.

This workshop seeks papers in political philosophy which can contribute to a conceptual discussion of legitimacy:

  •          What do different traditions of political philosophy mean by “legitimacy”?
  •          What are the main competing normative conceptions of political legitimacy?
  •          Can the new political realism re-establish the importance of legitimacy vis-à-vis justice?
  •          Do various conceptions of legitimacy have a shared meaning, or do we only find a family resemblance? Is the concept of legitimacy essentially contested, and if so, how?
  •          Is legitimacy a useful concept in normative political philosophy, or does it create more confusion than clarity?