Legitimation Strategies in International Hierarchies

International Studies Quarterly

Author/s (editor/s):

Joseph MacKay

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Oxford University Press

Joseph MacKay, ‘Legitimation Strategies in International Hierarchies’, International Studies Quarterly, 63(3) 2019: 717-25.

How do hierarchical cores or metropoles legitimate their influence or rule? How do their approaches to legitimation inform resistance? This theory note rethinks how legitimation operates in hierarchies, with a focus on variation in cores’ legitimation strategies. I argue that varying claims to hierarchical legitimacy shape both action at the core and resistance at the periphery. I develop a four-part typology of legitimation strategies, differentiated along two axes. On the first, cores may be universalist, recognising no legitimate equals, or competitive, recognizing other cores as peer rivals. On the second, they may chiefly innovate legitimacy claims internally, drawing them from their own political traditions, or externally, borrowing the claims of others. These strategies shape available options for revisionism by rivals and resistance by hierarchical subordinates. I illustrate with historical examples.

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