chapter  1
23 Pages

Introduction: The Crisis of Illegitimate Sovereignty

WithLawrence T. Farley

One of the chief sources of turmoil in the closing years of the twentieth century is a phenomenon which may be called "The Crisis of Illegitimate Sovereignty." Compulsion is not only costly and dangerous to governments that employ it but it breeds a livelier perception of political illegitimacy—particularly when minority economic or ethnic groups feel the sting of repression. The "divine right of kings" principle has been a powerful source of legitimation throughout the world up into the twentieth century. Wisdom and virtue are significant sources of legitimacy. From Plato to Lenin, the possession of superior wisdom has been a major source of legitimacy. The most important contemporary source of political legitimacy—the one that sharply distinguishes the twentieth century from all previous centuries—is the will of the people. The "will of the people" as the bedrock of political legitimacy is the product of a thousand year trend toward greater participation in government.