Reciprocal legitimation: Reframing the problem of international legitimacy

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31 Scopus citations


Theorizing about the legitimacy of international institutions usually begins with a framing assumption according to which the legitimacy of the state is understood solely in terms of the relationship between the state and its citizens, without reference to the effects of state power on others. In contrast, this article argues that whether a state is legitimate vis-a-vis its own citizens depends upon whether its exercise of power respects the human rights of people in other states. The other main conclusions are as follows. First, a state's participation in international institutions can contribute to its legitimacy in several ways. Second, when international institutions contribute to the legitimacy of states, their doing so can contribute to their own legitimacy. Third, a theory of international legitimacy ought to recognize reciprocal legitimation between states and international institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
JournalPolitics, Philosophy and Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • extended constitution
  • international institutions
  • legitimacy
  • reciprocal legitimation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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