in: Contemporary Politics 23 (3), 269-286
The legitimacy of political orders is an important reference point in political analysis, but the concept is difficult to operationalize and measure – particularly in those countries where legitimacy is critical, i.e. cases of political transformation, non-democratic rule and high state fragility. To be successful, legitimation (the process by which legitimacy is procured) has to fulfil two functions: relate demands for legitimation to government performance (the ‘demand cycle’), and relate legitimacy claims issued by the rulers to behavioural patterns of the ruled (the ‘supply cycle’). Looking at the recent academic debate, the article finds that empirical research has largely ignored the demand cycle, while attempts to explore the relationships underlying the supply cycle tend to suffer from misconceptions of basic terms. The article proposes a framework for empirical enquiry that addresses both shortcomings.