Determining a Nation's Legitimacy: Study of UK's Political Culture and Structure

Topics: United Kingdom, Democracy, Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom Pages: 6 (2001 words) Published: March 30, 2011

A nation state is an entity that holds democracy as a core value. If we declare that democracy gives the people control over their lives, then we must understand what influences the people. There are numerous types of democracies and each type is influenced by the nation’s political culture and political structures. These two notions determine the place of the people in the nation and how they feel about their nation state. Through the study of political culture and structure we can determine a nation’s legitimacy. The existence of representative systems like parliaments, political parties and the distribution of authority with regards to military power all play an important role when determining legitimacy of a nation.

One of the nation states that has perfected the core value of democracy is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, otherwise known as the UK. They were the first empire to set up a parliamentary system which introduced the notion of representation for the people. Through the centuries, the idea of representation and other historical events shaped the political culture and structure of the UK as we know it today. The legitimacy put forth by this culture and structure is widely accepted as the authority, and this acceptance has led to the progress of the nation as a democracy.

Legitimacy is a value whereby an institution is accepted by the public as right and proper, thus giving it authority and power (O'NEIL, 2010, 321).In other words by agreeing with the policies and laws put forth by the government, the people give the power to the government to govern their everyday lives. In some nations this legitimacy is determined by the masses, however there are some cases that the legitimacy is determined by the ruling elite which are a small portion of the population. Given that not all nations are democracies, the legitimacy can be forced upon the people by a single individual. In any case, without legitimacy a government will not be able to govern as their power will not be recognized thus leading to collapse.

In developed countries such as the USA, England, Germany and Japan legitimacy is acquired through the people and their choices. Since these countries are democracies, the people have the right to choose who governs their nation. From the political culture point of view we can see the trend where most developed nations are considered to be consensual. This means that most of the population has shared views thus leading the country to be more stable, predictable and less violent. In contrast, it is evident that 3rd world countries that are less developed tend to be more conflictual. This leads them to be more unstable, unpredictable and more violent. In consensual nations the legitimacy is clearer as there are established institutions that enforce the elements of the existing political culture. With this in mind the authority distributed amongst the population is consistent, and the people accept the role of the government as authority.

Political cultures also have an impact on what kind of a structure the nation will have. Although these two factors are interlocked and influence each other, it can be said that within democracies the people choose the government, thus they choose the political structure. For example a nation state that has been governed by a liberalist party will be less likely to vote for a communist party to govern their nation, as this will change the government structure that conflicts with the political culture of the nation. In other words, legitimacy in democratic nations is determined by the harmonious unification of the political culture and political structure.

As mentioned earlier within these political cultures and structures there lays institutions and norms that enforce legitimacy. Some of the important institutions of a political structure are the political parties which give...

Bibliography: BRAMAN, C. (1996). The Political Philosophy of John Locke. Retrieved from Chuck Braman Web site:
O 'NEIL, P. H. (2010). Essentials of Comparative politics. Norton. P 321
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