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

Published: 20 Jul 2012

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