Legitimacy in State-Building: A Review of the IR Literature

Peace operations
Written by

Morten Skumsrud Andersen

Senior Research Fellow,Head of the Research Group on Global Order and Diplomacy



In this article, which focuses on different concepts of state-building and legitimacy as used in the mainstream International Relations (IR) literature, I suggest that recent debates may be categorized in a two-by-two matrix. The axes concern the choice between a normative or a sociological perspective on the one hand, and a focus on state institutions or on society on the other. The article identifies an empiricist-sociological approach. Still, the almost exclusive reliance on an ontology of entities and their attributes hampers foci on relations as constituting both “insides” and “outsides” in state-building, and on legitimacy as important in its own right as ongoing public contestations. In a concluding section, I explore the purchase of a relational sociology for future studies of legitimacy in state-building