Legitimacy is widely theorized as shaping the dynamics of contentious politics, fostering support and stability for those involved while imposing behavioral constraints. Yet, empirical research reveals wide variation in how these effects are realized in practice. We contend that divergences in legitimacy’s effects are tied in fundamental ways to the relationship between actors engaged in contentious politics and their audience(s). We develop a framework that highlights three conditions shaping the effects of legitimacy—legitimacy type, network balance, and structural dependence—and use a comparative analysis of dyadic relationships of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and Jemaah Islamiyah to illustrate how convergence and divergence in legitimacy’s effects are systematically structured by these conditions. Doing so advances scholarship on legitimacy in contentious politics by providing a basis for systematically comparing the effects of legitimacy across cases, situations, and historical contexts.
- Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)
- Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)
- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
- comparative analysis
- contentious politics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science