Legal Theory Lexicon: Legitimacy

Introduction Legitimacy. It’s a word much bandied about by students of the law. “Bush v. Gore was an illegitimate decision.” “The Supreme Court’s implied fundamental rights jurisprudence lacks legitimacy.” “The invasion of Iraq does not have a legitimate basis in international law.” We’ve all heard words like these uttered countless times, but what do they mean? Can we give an account of “legitimacy” that makes that concept meaningful and distinctive? Is “legitimacy” one idea or is it several different notions, united by family resemblance rather than an underlying conceptual structure? This entry in the Legal Theory Lexicon theory will examine the concept of legitimacy from various angles. As always, the Lexicon is aimed at law students, especially first-year law students, with an interest in legal theory. Normative and Sociological Legitimacy Let’s begin with the distinction between normative…

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