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MC7 Political Legitimation

Discursive Practices of Political Legitimation

Coordination: Thomas Maissen, Michael Bergunder, David Mervart, Hans Martin Krämer, Susan Richter


Jacques-Louis David - The Coronation of Napoleon [Source:]

Jacques-Louis David - The Coronation of Napoleon [Source:]

The normative bias of contemporary political theory has made it nearly impossible to seriously consider legitimacy claims by any political formation predating modern liberal parliamentary democracy. The applicability of the very concept of political legitimacy to the pre-modern societies of Asia is dubious in view of the predominantly European bias of its founding formulations.

The aim of this research group is to gain a more inclusive grasp on the various claims to legitimacy that could provide us with a historically contextualised and comparatively and transculturally applicable notion of its forms and functions. This is done mainly by exploring the textual modes and discursive practices of legitimation and their mutual interaction in the crucial period of the seventeenth to nineteenth century through a series of case studies from across Eurasia.

We seek to combine a historically comparative and genealogical approach to the key concepts, genres and patterns of argument used in legitimising governments and policies with a methodologically critical reevaluation of the analytical toolkit available to us in making sense of the political experience from a transcultural perspective.

A major part of this investigation concerns the historical construction of the two conceptual dichotomies—“religion and politics” and “church and state”—and their role in delineating and legitimising the political sphere and political power in European countries as a precondition both of colonial rule and of new kinds of domestic reform politics in various parts of Asia.