legitimation crisis

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legitimation crisis

the tendency of modern political systems, which depend on ‘consent’ for their maintenance of political AUTHORITY, to meet major problems amounting to ‘crisis’ in doing so. Such problems are seen as arising especially from contradictions and conflicts between the logic of capitalist accumulation and escalating demands for social welfare, as well as demands for increased participation and social equality.

From a neo-Marxist point of view, in Legitimation Crisis (1975) HABERMAS identified three main ‘crisis tendencies’ in capitalist societies:

  1. economic crisis, arising from fact that the state acting as the unconscious ‘executive organ of the law or value’ acts as the planning agent of ‘united monopoly capital’;
  2. rationality crisis, the ‘destruction of administrative rationality’ which occurs through: (i) the opposing interests of individual capitalists (e.g. between monopoly and non-monopoly forms of capitalism), (ii) the production (necessary for continued existence of the system) of structures ‘foreign to the system’, such as welfare provision (including new types of welfare workers with new values);
  3. legitimation and motivation crises arising from the politicization of administrative interventions which results from the above, and from the erosion of previously important traditions (e.g. deference) and the ‘overloading’ of the existing political and economic system ‘through universalistic value-systems (‘new’ needs)’.

Habermas's suggestion was that the state in future may prove unable to manage the tensions between competing values which such tendencies involve, especially in a context which encourages a new emphasis on rational critical discourse. In most Western states over the last decade, however, the tendencies to crisis (FISCAL CRISIS IN THE CAPITALIST STATE, as well as ‘legitimation crisis’) have been handled by rolling back the WELFARE STATE, a refashioning of justifications for the market economy, and by programmes of privatization, etc. See also THATCHERISM.