Influenced by the conceptualization of legitimacy in terms of performance (or ‘output’ in the OECD typology), there is a tendency in the literature to relate the legitimacy of a state to social and material improvement (e.g. Burnell, 2006) or more directly to the creation of jobs (e.g. Teskey et al., 2012). There is some evidence which supports this line of reasoning; research indicates that the ‘tangibility’ of government and public service delivery affects how people think and feel about the state (Wild et al., 2013; Kingdon et al., 2014). Job creation is certainly a tangible performance output that a state can offer but there has been no research on the nature of the relationship between job creation and perceptions of legitimacy. As with service delivery, the relationship is likely to be complex and influenced by many of the factors that dictate whether service delivery increases positive perceptions of the state.
There is some research which provides insights into the potential particularities of the relationship between legitimacy and job creation. Grindle’s (2004) study of reforms in the education sector in Latin America between 1977 and 1996 provides insights into the potential for job creation to foster support for a reform process. The study showed that reforms which increased access to education encountered relatively little resistance, whereas reforms which attempted to improve quality experienced extensive resistance. The key difference was that the reforms giving access to education resulted in the construction of more schools creating more jobs for teachers, administrators, service personnel, construction workers and publishers of textbooks and makers of school equipment, while the reforms to quality threatened job loss.
In political systems where legitimacy is predicated on a system of patronage, the provision of jobs through the civil service and government contracts is less likely to be based on merit. Drawing on the theory of legitimacy outlined in Section 1, whether the provision of jobs and contracts to unqualified personnel will undermine the legitimacy of a ruling party or system, will depend on what citizens expect from civil servants and government contracts and whether the patronage benefits compensate for the civil service or government contracts failing to meet expectations.
- Burnell, P. (2006). Autocratic opening to democracy: why legitimacy matters. Third World Quarterly, 27(4), 545-562. See document online
- Grindle, M. (2004). Despite the odds: The contentious politics of education reform. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Kingdon, G.G., Little A., Aslam M., Rawal S., Moe T.Kingdon, Patrinos H., Beteille T., … Sharma, S.K. (2014). A rigorous review of the political economy of education systems in developing countries. Final Report. London: DFID.
- Teskey, G., Schnell, S., & Poole, A. (2012). Beyond capacity—Addressing authority and legitimacy in fragile states. See document online
- Wild, L., Rocha Menocal, A., & Mallett, R. (2013). State legitimacy through service delivery? Towards an analytical framework (Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium Working Paper 15). London: ODI. See document online