Stream Legitimacy and Institutions

What makes institutions legitimate?

This stream focuses on what the notion of an open society means for the legitimacy of institutions and how they operate.

The research stream, part of Institutions for Open Societies, will provide frameworks to assess the legitimacy of institutions in open societies.

Legitimacy and institutions

Legitimate governments

In an open society might does not make right. In an open society power is only legitimate if it is based on specific procedures and exercised according to explicit rules. In order to be legitimate, institutions have to operate on the basis of clear and general laws.

The construction of these laws should be based on popular sovereignty. Rulemaking bodies have to be representative and responsive to the population. Legitimate governments are those characterised by majority rule, minority rights, and democratic elections. Open societies are built upon the notion that the autonomy and rights of individual citizens deserve respect. The exercise of power needs to be equitable, and according to fair and just procedures. Individual citizens should have access to an independent judiciary if they feel their rights are infringed upon. In an open society, by definition, transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness are important preconditions for legitimacy.