Debate over Legitimacy

Part of the Politics and Development of Contemporary China book series (PDCC)


Legitimacy is one of the most frequently used and misused concepts in political science. Legitimacy usually enters the analytical picture when it is missing or deficient.1 Legitimacy can roughly be understood as the right to govern — that one ought to have the authority to get things done. It can be considered metaphorically equivalent to a reservoir of water: as long it stays at a certain level, it can be maintained, but if it falls below a certain level, there is the risk that all will be lost.2 Max Weber believes that every such system attempts to establish and to cultivate the belief in “legitimacy.”3 In China’s case, Tong Yanqi contends that no country concerns regime legitimacy more than China does and no country has removed illegitimate regimes more times than China has.4 Elizabeth Perry and Mark Selden argue that Chinese history boasts a record of resistance and rebellion second to none.5 Guo Baogang, a Chinese American political scientist, states that the enduring question in political development in China today is no different from what was sought after throughout Chinese history, namely, the constant search for political legitimacy.6


Liberal Democracy Political Legitimacy Chinese History State Legitimacy Confucian Tradition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© He Li 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • He Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Merrimack CollegeUSA

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