The legitimacy of global governance institutions

Allen Buchanan, Robert O. Keohane

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


In this introduction, we attempt to elucidate three theoretical perspectives that are helpful in framing the contributions to this volume. In the course of this elucidation we also attempt to indicate some important problems that the debate currently faces. We do this through discussions of international legitimacy, international justice and the relations between ideal and non-ideal theory. International legitimacy. From normative authority by consent to instrumental legitimacy. Questions of legitimacy have long been central to both political philosophy and political practice. It is not merely vanity that leads dictators of virtually all stripes to first decide to hold elections and then announce that they have won 96 per cent of the vote in them. Saddam Hussein, for instance, held a referendum in 2002 on whether he should continue as ruler of Iraq for the next seven years, and after the election was held it turned out that out of 11,445,638 eligible voters, every single one voted in favour. The natural question to ask is: why bother? Why bother to hold sham elections with sham results when you hold power anyway? There are many possible answers, but two are especially relevant here. The effect of legitimacy is, or can be, twofold. First, it makes it easier to exercise the power one does possess. Second, and as important, it can often increase the scope of the power one possesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLegitimacy, Justice and Public International Law
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9780511691720
ISBN (Print)9780521199490
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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