A key challenge in planning an intervention is to understand the extent to which the justification of the organisation of power by a state or non-state actors is aligned with the beliefs of significant proportions of the population. Several questions would arise.
- To what extent does the justification of the allocation of power align with the beliefs of the population?
- How much disagreement is there about the justification?
- Is there evidence of extensive coercion by state or non-state actors?
This section presents tools used by international actors to answer these sorts of questions.
Political economy analysis
Political economy analysis (PEA) provides an understanding of the prevailing political and economic processes in society – specifically, the incentives, relationships, distribution, and struggle for power between different groups and individuals. In this way, it provides insights into the established rules on how power is allocated. The OECD 2010 report drew on PEA to demonstrate how rules, relating to the allocation of power, can result in very different perceptions of legitimacy. A good PEA will explore both formal and informal rules. The drawback of using PEA to understand the legitimacy of state and non-state actors is that some, which focus on elite bargains, do not include an analysis of whether these bargains are perceived as legitimate by the subordinate group. The DFID guidance note on carrying out a PEA notes the importance of understanding the effect of political ideology, religion and cultural beliefs on political behaviour and public policy, but does not include an analysis of the impact of these values and ideas on the population’s perception of the rules on how power is allocated. There is quite a variation in how PEAs are conducted and some are more conducive to focusing on legitimacy than others. For instance, the Politics of Development Framework included an analysis of the legitimacy of a political process, but did not provide guidance on how legitimacy should be assessed.
A political settlement approach integrates a broader perspective than that provided by most PEAs, as a stable political settlement relies on its perceived legitimacy. Thus, in a typology of political settlements proposed by David Booth (forthcoming), the primary modes of legitimation/enforcement are identified as one dimension in the typology. Two modes of legitimisation are identified; enforcing rules/providing public goods, and by appealing to group loyalties/ providing private and club goods. Thus attention is given not only to ‘horizontal’ relations among elite factions (which tends to be focused on in PEAs), but also ‘vertical’ relations between elites and non-elites. The second dimension is the mode by which elites overcome collective action problems. This could be potentially useful as an initial analysis of a country’s type of political settlement, and could provide theories as to how it could lose legitimacy.
Dilemma analysis is a state-building diagnostic tool that examines donor objectives, contradictions between objectives, competing objectives, and trade-offs in prioritisation and sequencing decisions (Paris & Sisk, 2009). However, the concept could be used to analyse how the beliefs and values of the donor differ from those of a country’s dominant and subordinate groups to understand what dilemmas the differences may present, and whether a proposed intervention will need additional work to build its legitimacy.
The authority, legitimacy and capacity framework (ALC)
The authority, legitimacy and capacity model (also known as ‘ALC’) stems from the Country Indicators for Foreign Policy (CIFP) project. Fragility is understood in terms of the degrees of authority, legitimacy and capacity that a state demonstrates. Although the tool defines legitimacy in a generally empirical way (the extent to which a particular government commands public loyalty to the governing regime, and can generate domestic support for that government’s legislation and policy), the indicators it uses to measure legitimacy are normative (regime type, human rights and gender equality). A multidimensional, multilevel and bilateral approach
Robert Lamb’s (2014) framework for measuring legitimacy was suggested as a possible typology in Section 1. Lamb advocates understanding legitimacy as multidimensional, multilevel and bilateral. In his assessment framework, he outlines core questions which attempt to clarify the unit of analysis and the criteria used:
- what entity is being assessed for legitimacy, (referred to as the ‘conferee’);
- whose version of legitimacy is being assessed (referred to as the ‘referees’).
Lamb recommends using the norms and expectations of the referees to devise a set of indicators, based on his multidimensional concept of legitimacy. He draws attention to the importance of accessing the norms and expectations of subcultures within any group of referees, especially low status groups. He outlines four different types of legitimacy assessments that can be carried out depending on the time and resources available for the analysis. All assessments use the multidimensional understanding of legitimacy, but the fastest assessment assesses only the macro level of legitimacy, while the more sophisticated assessments include the micro and meso levels and the bilateral aspects of legitimacy. For more details on the challenges of measuring legitimacy using this approach, see Section . This framework of analysis was used to inform revisions to the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency strategy.
- For further information, see the GSDRC Topic Guide on PEAs
- Booth, D. (forthcoming 2015). Towards a consolidated typology of political settlements.
- Lamb, R. (2014). Rethinking legitimacy and illegitimacy. Washington, DC: Centre for Strategic and International Studies. See document online
- Paris, R, & Sisk, T. D. (Eds.). (2009). The dilemmas of statebuilding. New York: Routledge.