In this TMA I will examine and assess how political order is made mainly through the state. In order to create, maintain and repair political order, the state needs authority from its citizens to do so and this authority needs to be legitimate. ‘Legitimacy refers to a belief in the states rightness, its right to rule or the idea that its authority is proper.’ I will then explain how today, legitimacy is closely linked to democracy and it is through free and fair elections that the state receives legitimacy. The degree to which individuals legitimise the state is varied and individuals or groups of people can also engage critically with the state.
Creating political order is largely the role of the state. The state orders our lives in many ways and we encounter and experience the state on a daily basis in many areas of our lives. For example, we may need to pay a visit to the Doctor, pay our taxes, avoid speed cameras, go to school or we may encounter the police, the postman, an ambulance etc. As the examples show, the state orders our lives through a range of practises, institutions such as schools, nurseries, agents such as the police and postman and also through procedures.
‘The state (as defined by Max Weber) is an organisation that successfully claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of force in a given territory.’- the state‘s authority may be backed by violence if necessary. ‘Territory is clearly central to Webers definition - the state claims to be dominant within a defined territory or within a country’s borders.’
This theory shows a relationship between the state, its territory and its people yet this relationship is not symmetrical. A possible weakness in this theory is that ‘territory’ is not a pre-given as ‘the borders of a state do not necessarily coincide with the borders of a nation, as in the case of the United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland where one state houses three nations - England Scotland and Wales.’
A good point on the theory is that Weber sees ‘force’ as the key characteristic of defining the state as he argues that states do so many things there is no point defining the state by what is does but rather by how it does things - if necessary force may be used. Weber also argues that the state ‘claims’ a monopoly of legitimate force - the state is in a process of constantly claiming legitimacy.
The political theorist John Hoffman however contradicts Weber’s definition and argues that ‘the state is an institution which claims something it cannot possibly have… a state claims a monopoly of legitimate force, but ironically it is only because ‘competitors’ contest the state’s claim to have a monopoly of legitimate force that the state exist at all.’ For example criminals or terrorists contest the states claim of legitimate force.
A critical issue in the making of institutional political order is legitimacy. In this aspect the state depends on its citizens for its existence. In order for states to govern over people, they need authority from the people to do so. ‘Political authority is organised territorially across the whole state, and it’s compulsory in that its authority in the end will be backed by violence if necessary. That kind of authority requires a certain degree of legitimacy that other institutions perhaps don’t have or don’t claim…’
Authority however is not a given or automatic, it needs to be created and earned. Authority needs to be legitimate and is extremely important as it ‘enables organisations and actors to shape or direct aspects of social life.. The state is in a process of constantly claiming legitimacy - ‘Legitimacy needs to be renewed, repaired or restored regularly.’
‘Legitimacy refers to a belief in the states rightness, its right to rule or the idea that its authority is proper. A state that is (believed to be or accepted as) legitimate is more...