Building Legitimate States After Civil Wars

David A. Lake

in Strengthening Peace in Post-Civil War States

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780226351247
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226351261 | DOI:
Building Legitimate States After Civil Wars

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The current model of state-building employed by the international community has been roundly criticized. Importantly, it implicitly rests on a formal-legal conception of legitimacy in which law or institutions confer authority on individuals, who then employ that authority to create a social order. This chapter develops an alternative, relational conception of legitimacy drawn from social contract theories of the state. In this approach, authority derives from a mutually beneficial contract in which the ruler provides a social order of benefit to the ruled, and the ruled in turn comply with the extractions (e.g., taxes) and constraints on their behavior (e.g., law) that are necessary to the production of that order. The contract becomes self-enforcing—or legitimate—when individuals and groups become vested in that social order by undertaking investments specific to the particular contract, in short, when they become stakeholders to the peace. In this way, legitimacy follows from social order, not the other way around as in the current model.

Keywords: state-building; legitimacy; stakeholders; social contract theories; social order

Chapter.  9772 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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