Conclusion: Legitimacy as Complement and Corrective to Legality

Vesselin Popovski and Nicholas Turner

in Legality and Legitimacy in Global Affairs

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199781577
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932887 | DOI:
Conclusion: Legitimacy as Complement and Corrective to Legality

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Assessments of acceptable state behavior can be based on a variety of criteria. In international order, such assessments are primarily made with reference to the system of recognized standards and agreements among states; international law can define a certain act as legal or illegal. However, other criteria—humanitarian, ethical, and political—can clearly play a significant role in judging state behavior in modern international relations. The development of the legitimacy narrative has drawn more attention to questions of appropriate authority to act coercively in contested situations, when the basis for assessment does not belong to the primacy or relevance of international law. This narrative breaks free from the straitjacket of legalism and evaluates state behavior with sensitive reflection on ethical and political considerations, loosening the constraints of legality and embracing humanitarian and moral discourse to justify controversial policy. This concluding chapter briefly highlights the principal contributions of each chapter in the book, both in terms of substance and methodology. It is hoped that the cumulative impact of the volume becomes clearer, as well as giving a broad overview of the various approaches taken to the legality/legitimacy distinction by the authors with an eye to overall coherence despite considerable diversity of approach and assessment.

Keywords: legality; legitimacy; state behavior; international relations

Chapter.  5457 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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