If without resorting to coercion or the use

legal legitimacy refers to the law, political legitimacy refers to the exercise
of power. The political power that is perceived as legitimate will be mostly
obeyed, while the one perceived as illegitimate will be disobeyed, unless
obedience is obtained through coercion. That is, political legitimacy is when
there is a “social recognition” from the citizenship towards their political
authorities. Legitimacy is usually bestowed through election. If the electoral
process carried out is in compliance with the law, the legitimization of that
power is duly established. In Political Science, legitimacy is the ability of a
power to obtain obedience without resorting to coercion or the use of threat or
force; meaning that a state is legitimate is there is a consensus between the
members of the political community to accept the current authority.


            Accordingly, legitimacy is a
characteristic of the exercise of power, “power, in the context of politics,
can be defined as the ability to get others to act against their will”. Power
can operate through persuasion or through coercion – the use of threats and/or
force. According to Max Weber, authority is a power accepted as legitimate by
those subjected to it (Cotterrell,
R. 1997). In the case of the United Kingdom, it maintains its
legitimacy through, firstly, political institutions and organisations, such as
the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the House of Commons, the Monarch, the House of
Lords, and the voters. Secondly, through political ideologies. Thirdly, by
establishing political symbols (the British flag, national anthem, monarch) and
lastly, by unrevealing political and social problems (terrorism, economic
issues). Throughout this paper we will examine which institutions, processes
and practices legitimize the exercise of power in contemporary Britain. We will
then try to identify which legitimizing mechanism functions most effectively.

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            Political power is power exercised
over others, since it includes the power to make rules and to enforce them,
applying sanctions provided by the use of force, when not obeyed. It is a power
of domination over others, in the Weberian sense. Power over human beings can
be exercised individually or through an organization – power exercised over
human beings through the organization of the State is political power, whose
rule of exercise is the right. Power thus understood, as domination, is the
main element of the state. Therefore, it refers to the main property of the state,
which is sovereignty. Sovereignty is a supreme and independent power, that is
to say, an internal power on the population and an external power against other
states. Sovereignty and legitimacy are the two key concepts of state theory. “A
state’s sovereignty depends on its legitimacy, and legitimacy grounds its
sovereignty” – Rousseau. Legitimacy is, on the one hand, the international
recognition of a state, of its supreme and independent political power. But on
the other, and more importantly, legitimacy is the recognition by the
population that their rulers are the true holders of power and those who have
the right to exercise it. Therefore, sovereignty and legitimacy are the
essential pillars of a state’s political power.

            In Rousseau’s views, the concept of
legitimacy is at the centre of his political theory. In fact, it constitutes
the object of study of his fundamental work, the Social Contract Theory, in
which he relates legitimacy with justice and freedom (David Wootton, 2008). The
legitimate holder of power is the people, to the extent that they totally
identified with the state.  As for the
exercise of power, it is legitimate only if it fulfils the mandates of the
general will, that is, if it complies with the laws. Therefore, for Rousseau,
the legitimacy of origin is the foundation of the legitimacy of exercise. If the
state is well constituted on the basis of popular sovereignty and since the
general will is never wrong, the laws emanating from it are the criterion to be
followed by the population and their government. Thus, legitimacy becomes
legality (David Wootton, 2008). Powerful actors can achieve a great deal
regardless of how legitimate their power appears. But legitimacy grants
powerful authority, and authority enables powerful actors to get what they want
without having to exercise their power. Neither consent nor benefits is the
same as approval. However, it is unlikely that people would consent to
something that they don’t approve of (Rousseau, 1997). So if a state has its citizens’ consent, it will also have their
approval. Likewise, if a state secures important benefits, it will probably
receive general approval. People are more likely to disapprove of a state if it
starts to fail to provide security, justice, and the other goods discussed. So
we can argue that even if consent is not necessary, there is still something
peculiar in suggesting an authority could be legitimate (in anything more than
the ‘justifiable coercion’ sense) irrespective on how those under the authority
felt about it. Legitimacy emerges when