Research Profile Political Legitimacy

The Institute of Political Science participates in the research profile Political Legitimacy: Institutions and Identities. The eleven multi-disciplinary research profiles represent the areas in which Leiden University offers a particularly strong research record. The development of political identities and legitimacy of political institutions are academically exciting and socially highly relevant issues.

‘Politics’ has been under fire for a while now and everywhere the complaint can be heard that there is a gap between politics, both national and European, and the people. The vital question, which forms the basis of this gap, is: what gives an administration the right to govern? Seen from the viewpoint of constitutional law, that right is of course based on the election results and the subsequent cabinet formation.

How does legitimacy work?

But there is more. There also has to be a sufficient degree of legitimacy: the wide-spread belief among the population that those in power are the right people to govern. Legitimacy is therefore what grants those in power the authority required to rule the country. The legitimacy of a political system depends on how effectively political administration and political institutions, such as governments, parliaments and political parties, work. Yet, a neo-corporatist model, such as the Dutch Poldermodel, is also a political institution. However, the legitimacy of a political system depends just as much on identities, on a practice of citizenship and a sense of identity and engagement among the people. Institutions and identities may coincide and together reinforce identity, but there will always be a certain tension. This tension between institutions and identities has been caused by history, by the way the Netherlands and other countries came into being and have developed into national unities. The historic perspective is vital for a proper insight into the development of legitimacy. In the ‘political legitimacy’ research area, the central theme is the tension between institution and identity, now and in the past, also viewed from a comparative and a European Union perspective.

Collaboration between scientists from different backgrounds

The close collaboration between historians, political scientists, legal specialists and public administration scholars makes this Leiden research area highly interdisciplinary. This, in addition to the close links between research on the one hand, and national and European politics and legal frameworks on the other, enables Leiden research on politics and political legitimacy to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges that both individual nations and the European Union are facing today.


Please visit the website of the Research Profile Political Legitimacy for more information.

Last Modified: 30-10-2013