Classical Political Thought, Ethics, and the Notion of “Political Legitimacy”

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[I think people would be surprised to learn that while legitimacy is something that everyone says they want, it is actually very hard to identify when and why legitimacy has been achieved. It is not just a matter of perception – we cannot just say that a state is legitimate when it is perceived to be legitimate. Nor can we say a state is legitimate when it acts according to established laws. Fascist regimes of the 20th century illustrate that it is possible to achieve legality and popular approval without being morally legitimate. What is surprising is the degree to which we invoke assessments of legitimacy and illegitimacy when there is virtually no agreement about its moral basis.]

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