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By Fomba V. Sannoh
Date: 13/ 02/ 1997


Legitimacy power: power stemming from a position placement in the managerial hierarchy and the authority vested in it.[1]


Where power is acquired and exercised according to justification rule, and with evidence of consent, is call rightful or legitimate. For the moral and political philosopher, power is legitimate where the rules governing it are justifiable according to rationally defensible normative principle.[2]


A study of legitimacy will not involve only an examination of the justifications of government, but of the different ways in which the various aspects of government are justified, the various relations of legitimacy which exist between the state and its subject, and the differing groups and sections of citizens, both within and outside the structures of government. Weber argue that the identification of different kind of legitimacy enable us to distinguish between different kinds of regime.[3]



The key to understanding the concept of legitimacy lies in the recognition that it is multi-dimensional in character. It embodies three distinct elements or levels, which are qualitatively different from one another, power can be said to be legitimate to the extent that:

1.      it conforms to established rules

2.      the rules can be justified by reference to beliefs shared by both dominant and subordinate

3.      there is evidence of consent by the subordinate to the particular power relation.

The first level is that of rules; the second that of justifications ground on beliefs; the third that of actions. The third levels are not alternatives, since all contribute to legitimacy; all provide the subordinate with moral grounds for compliance or cooperation with the powerful. Each, however, is different, and has its own characteristic form of non-legitimacy.[4]


The first and most basic level of legitimacy is that of rules; power can be said to be legitimate in the first instance if it is acquired and exercised in accordance with established rules. For convenience I shall call the rules governing the acquisition and exercise of power the rules of power. The rules may be unwritten, as informal conventions, or they may be formalized in legal code or judgement.

Pressures towards formalization arises in most societies from the nee to resolve disputes about power by making rules both precise and strictly enforceable, but there still remains a considerable role for convention, or custom and practice, even where legal formalization is the presence of an ultimate authority whose rulings are acknowledged as final.

The opposite of legitimacy according to the rules is, Illegitimacy; power is illegitimate where it is either acquired in contravention of the rules (coup detat expropriation, usurpation), or exercised in a manner that contravenes or exceeds them. The illegal acquisition of power usually has more profound, because more all-pervasive, consequence for legitimacy than some breach or contravention in its exercise, though that depends upon the seriousness of the breach, and whether it is repeated. Whether the rules are continually broken, we could speak of a condition of chronic illegitimacy.[5]


Legitimacy is a legal concept where-by a couples child is entitled to full recognition as a member of their family group, enjoying the legal rights which that statues involve. [6]

At common law, a child is legitimate only if his parent were lawfully married either at the time of his conception, even if the marriage has ended by death or divorce before his death, or at the time of the child's birth although he was conceived before his parents were married.[7]

Legitimacy therefore is essentially a question of fact. Yet the burden of proving affirmatively is a very difficult one; To facilitate proof of paternity, the common law had since the twelfth century adopted the civil law maxim "pater est quem nuptiae demonstrate".[8]


On it own, legal validity is insufficient to secure legitimacy, since the rules through which power is acquired and exercised themselves stand in need of justification. This is the second level of legitimacy: power is legitimate to the extent that the rules of power can be justified in terms of beliefs shared by both dominant and subordinate. What kinds of Justification and what kinds of belief are needed?

To be justified, power has to be derived from a valid source of authority (this is particularly true of political power); the rules must provide that those who come to hold power have the qualities appropriate to its exercise; and the structure of power must be seen to serve a recognizably general interest, rather than simply the interest of the powerful.

The justification in turn depend upon beliefs current in a given society about what is the rightful source of authority; about what qualities are appropriate to the exercise of power and how individuals come to prose's them; and some conception of a common interest, reciprocal benefit, or social need that the system of power satisfies.[9]

On security is characterized by a complete uniformity of beliefs. The distinctive features of power relations in the difference of circumstances, opportunities and values between dominant and subordinate groups. Without the minimum of the appropriate beliefs defined above being shared between the dominant and the subordinate and among the subordinate themselves, there can be no basis on which justifications for the rules of power can find a purchase.

Naturally what count as an adequate or sufficient justifications will be more open to dispute than what is legally valid, and there is no ultimate authority to settle such questions; nevertheless, clear limits are set by logic and the beliefs of a given society to what justifications are plausible or credible within it.


The second level of legitimacy has its corresponding negative or opposite. Rules of power will lack legitimacy to the extent that they cannot be justified in terms of shared beliefs; either because no basis of shared belief exists in the first place, (Eg. Slavery, artificial or divided communities), or because changes in belief have deprived the rules of their supporting basis (Eg. Hereditary rule or male power, in fact of a declining belief in the superior qualities supposedly ascribed by birth or sex);[10] or changing circumstance have made existing justifications for the rules implausible, despite beliefs remaining constant Eg. British electoral system discussed; with its first-past-the-post rules determining who shall be elected in each constituency, id losing its legitimacy, and to an extent therefore also weakening that of the government elected under it. This different situation clearly have widely differing significance, but they can all be described as examples, not so much of illegitimacy, as of legitimacy deficit or weakness.

The third level of legitimacy involves the demonstrable expression of consent on the part of the subordinate to the particular power relation in which the are involved, through actions which provide evidence of consent.

As I measured earlier that the important of action such as concluding agreement with a superior, swearing allegiance, taking part in an election, is the contribution that make to legitimacy. This can be done in two ways:

1. they have a subjectively binding force fore those who have taken part in them, regardless of the motives for which they have done so. Actions expressive of consent, even if undertaken purely out of self-interest, will introduce a moral component into a relationship, and create a normative commitment on the part of those engaging in them.

2. such action have a publicly symbolic or declaratory force, in that they constitute an express acknowledgment on the part of the subordinate of the position of powerful, which the latter are able to use as confirmation of their legitimacy to third parties not involved in the relationship, or those who have not taken part in any expression of consent. They are thus often associated with impressive forms of ceremonial.[11]





1. Conformity to rules (legal validity)

2. justifications of rules in terms of shared beliefs

3. legitimization through expressed consent                                 



1. Illegitimacy (breach of rules)

2. legitimacy deficit (discrepancy between rules and supporting beliefs, absence of shared beliefs)

3. delegitimation (withdrawal of consent.[12]





Religion is not the primary basis for political domination in any south east Asia country at present, but its political significance is grown, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.  Malaysia government is a religious one that is a banding, clergy has mobilized the Islamic religion to legitimate kingship as well as rule. Authority derived directly from Allah (divinity and divine right) has served to justify the rule of monarchs, whereas deputation and custody of the moral and material heritage of the prophets have underscored the clergy's claim to legitimacy.[13]

The Malaysia government is more or less Islamic and their political system is based on free and fair democratic elections with 2/3 majority. The legitimacy of Malaysia leadership is indeed respected by the citizen and also the internationals.





Performance here is defined to encompass the security, welfare, and justice functions of government and not just economic performance. Performance is the key resource to any organizations, be a bad one or good performance.

(One)      Legitimating on the basis of performance is highly contingent and therefore, as pointed out by Webar, it is unreliable as a long-term basis of authority. Legitimation, to the extent that it can be based on economic performance, then becomes a function of the global economy. (b) while good performance may enhance legitimation, it can also undermine the legitimacy of certain government.[14]



Weber term the above as a gift of divine grace, he view charisma authority as a revolutionary type for exceptional situation. Many leaders lack of this kind as Weber defines it. They command power and authority that may be used as a resource in support of their claim to right to rule. In Southeast Asia political leader like Sukarno and Soeharto in indonesia, Aung San and Ne Win in Brunma, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Marcos in Philippines, Lee Kuan yew Singapore, Tunku Abdul Rahman in Malaysia have commanded substantial power and authority that they have deployed to legitimate their governments.

Power and authority of leaders draw upon history and political culture. It has been argue in Southeast Asia, power and authority were not sharply different, that power was customarily concentrated in the ruler, power in Malaysia did not have negative connotation, in fact, connotation of power in the rule, as opposed to separation and checks and balance of power, appears to have the norm. This kind of practice is view as a mark of stable rule.[15]






According to Weber, the question of legitimacy is driven exclusively domestic force. In Malaysia, International consideration do not enter into his decision. However, externational development have a significant impact on rule and ruled and their interaction. International dynamics are relevant only to the extent that they influence domestic discourse on the norms for legitimization and affect the power resources of the domestic countries.

International actors can affect any government in this world in a number of ways: Acceptance by the international community or by superpowers like United States and the formal Soviet Union as well as access to the resources of international organizations and regional organization confers prestige with the political to increase state capacity, enabling leaders and their governments to consolidate their domestic base. Nationalism can be invoked to justify resistance to the policies of the "imperial" power and enhance domestic legitimacy of the government and the regime.[16]










Malaysia government is legitimate. Because legitimacy is based on justifiable rules and evidence of consent. The government is fully accepted and respected by the citizen. Why, because it gos through democratic free and fair election, won with 2/3 majority. Also the government care for the environment, hence peace and stability remain strong, therefore, cooperation from the citizen improved and performance of the government improved.




[1] Bartol Kathryn M. (1996) Management pacific Rim focus. McGraw-Hall book company Australia Ltd. 4 Barcoo street, Roseville NSW 2069, Australia. P.3

[2] David Beetham (1991). Houndmills, basingstoke, hampshire RG21 2xs and London. P.3

[3] Barker Rodney (1990). Political legitimacy and state. Publish in the USA by oxford university press NY. Pp.16-17

[4] David Beetham (1991). Publish by macmillan education Ltd. Houndmills, basingstoke, hampshire RG21 2XS London. P15-16

[5]David Beetham. Pp.16-17

[6] S. M Cretney (1979). Principle of family law 3rd edition. Sweet and Maxwell, London. P.563

[7] Blackstones's commentaries, book 1p. 455

[8] Bromlet P. M, famaly law (sixth eddition) at p. 257

[9] Rodney Barker (1990). Political legitimact and state. Publish in the United State of America by oxford university press NY. P. 16-17

[10] Rodney Barker. pp17

[11] Rodney Barker. Pp.17-18

[12] Rodney Barker. Pp. 18-20

[13] Muthiah Alagappa (1996). Political legitimacy in Southeast Asia: the quest for moral authority. Cambridge university press. London. P. 39

[14] Muthiah Alagappa. Pp.41

[15] Muthiah Alagappa. Pp. 43-44

[16] Muthiah Alagappa. Pp 48

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