Legitimacy

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(from L. legitimus, lawful). Quality of being genuine, authentic. Achieved through legitimation, the act of making legitimate; that is, verifying or validating the truth of a thing or the quality of a person or thing in conformity with the laws in effect. It entails public recognition of some action, political figure, event, or procedure. This is frequently combined with legitimation or juridical validation of the authority or concrete act on the basis of the political constitution and existing law. L. instills trust in citizens and guarantees willing obedience and social and political harmony. L. is linked to the emotional and intellectual spheres and also to the sphere of Law. An authority has power when it is based on law and enjoys the moral approval of the people and a recognition expressed through legal procedures, for example, the electoral process. When a legal authority loses its l., it is condemned to failure. In many states, power and official policy are not invested with l., which attests to a crisis in that society. A crisis of l. clears the way for profound social and political changes. The people are the protagonists of l. and not the State. The people’s feeling to this effect can be suppressed for a time, but no one has the power to deprive the people of their capacity to formulate for themselves their spiritual and moral attitude toward power.