Table of Contents

Handbook on Theories of Governance

Handbook on Theories of Governance

Edited by Christopher Ansell and Jacob Torfing

In the past two decades, governance theories have arisen semi-independently across multiple disciplines. In law and regulation, planning, democratic theory, economics, public management, and international relations, among other disciplines, scholars have sought to describe new strategies of governing. As a result, the notion of governance is now one of the most frequently used social science concepts in the world. No single theory encompasses this diverse body of work, but rather multiple theories with different aims and perspectives. The Handbook on Theories of Governance collects these theories of governance together as an analytical resource for governing in an increasingly complex, fragmented and dynamic society.

Chapter 16: Legitimacy

Sylvia I. Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy, regulation and governance


Legitimacy is a key concept in any effort both to theorize how governance works and to evaluate its outcome. This chapter looks at legitimacy as primarily being about justification of authority and provides an overview of the diverse ways the concept is approached in the governance literature, ranging from national to global, from transnational to public–private or multi-stakeholder contexts of governance. It outlines some of the challenges around legitimacy that emerge particularly in contexts of governance, including the diversity in sources of input and output legitimacy and the ambiguity in identifying whose legitimacy claims count or should count when boundaries of authority are unclear. Finally, the chapter identifies some directions for further research that would deepen our understanding of the role legitimacy plays in governance.

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