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Conference ‘Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation’

23 January 2013 — 25 January 2013 Leiden, Universiteit

The political legitimacy of national states and the international system is a cause for concern among observers and policy-makers. While the evidence for a decline of legitimacy is mixed at best – many measures of trust in public institutions, quality of political representation and support for democracy do not show a large decline – there is a growing feeling of discontent with the current political system in many liberal democracies.

Political decision-making has increasingly been transferred beyond the direct control of presidents and parliaments: globalization, Europeanization and the growth of non-majoritarian institutions impact the way in which national authorities can decide on policies. In many ways their hands are tied by the European Union, central banks and legal authorities. The margins of decision-making are getting smaller and decision-making increasingly involves regulation. In particular, politicians create institutions and rules that limit their freedom to act later on.

At the same time, rules and institutions have arguably been the main force behind the creation of legitimate authority. Historically, lawless societies have usually been regarded as illegitimate. Can legitimacy exist without rules or does legitimacy presuppose (fixed) rules, and, if so, how should they be defined in different situations? In the last century the rational-legal type of legitimacy seems to have become central to modern (liberal) democracies. Indeed, one could argue that the most crucial element of modern liberal states is that they are bound by the rule of law. This is what we call the paradox of regulation: on the one hand rules and regulations are constitutive of political legitimacy; on the other hand they limit the freedom to act, which seems to impede the capacity of political regimes to foster political legitimacy.

While liberal democracies tend to create legitimacy via rules, authoritarian and semi-authoritarian systems, such as modern-day Russia and China, have historically attempted to create legitimacy via their policies and actions. How should we consider these alternatives to liberal democracy in the light of the debate on political legitimacy? And what can we learn from the way legitimacy was organized in societies before the advent of modern democracy with its constitutional rules? Is, on the other hand, modern populist criticism of liberal rules and institutions undermining or in the end buttressing legitimacy? The conference Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation aims to explore these developments and their consequences in a multi-disciplinary setting with researchers of history, law, politics, public administration, political philosophy and international relations.

The conference consists of two parts. First, plenary sessions with internationally renowned speakers in the field of political legitimacy. The opening session is on Wednesday evening 23 January 2013. Bernard Manin and David Beetham will provide keynote lectures on Thursday 24 January and Friday 25 January.

The workshops form the second part of the conference. Here papers are presented and discussed. The workshop format involves working groups of about 10-12 participants, who each present their paper to this group. This opens up the possibility for constructive and intensive discussions among a small group of researchers with a similar research interest. The idea is that you participate in the same workshop on both Thursday 24 January and Friday 25 January.

Please note that conferente registration has now closed.

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