Critically Examine the Claim by States to Be the Legitimate Governing Authority in a Territory.

Max Weber cited in Blakely and Saward (2009 P. 361) defines the state as ‘An organisation that successfully claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of force in a given territory. The word legitimate also appears in the question for this essay, so legitimacy appears to be the key word, and its definition is, “able to be defended with logic or justification” (Oxford dictionaries online). In a democracy the Government is voted in by the people, and it could be argued this process makes it legitimate. But not all states in the world are democratic, so can they be seen to be a legitimate governing body, with the authority to rule the people of that territory?

This essay will examine the legitimacy of the states power and if they are justified to be the governing authority in a given territory. The United Kingdom is a democratic society; the people are given the opportunity to vote, for the political party they consider will be the best to govern. However not all persons use their vote, and those who do, not all take careful consideration over the parties portfolio, but follow a habit of generations. In the 2010 general election only 65.1% of the 46 million registered voters used their vote (UK Political info).

That means around 16 million people chose not to, does this mean that they were content with whatever political party was elected and willingly except them as the legitimate governing authority. These non voters may be the democratic minimalists as described by David Beetham, (Citizens and the state, 2009, track 2) who believe that democracy is the right to govern through elections, but the voting should be left to those who understand the party line. That would leave the persons who voted as the democratic maximalists, who believe that they should have their say and participate more than normal.

Although this would suggest there is room for another category between the two, the section of the population who only get interested in politics when there is a general or local election and the rest of the time they are content with the elected party. However would it make a difference to the legitimacy if maximalists were given extra power and given the opportunity to have their say, through citizen’s initiative, local referendums and Citizens Juries?

Citizens juries, modelled on the structure of a criminal Jury, consists of 12 -16 ‘best fit’ demographic members of the public to examine an issue of public significance and deliver a verdict (People and However is 12 – 16 people a good cross section of the society, especially when the UK is considering changing trial by jury in fraud cases, because jurors struggle dealing with the complex evidence involved. (BBC news online) So it would appear that Joseph Schrumpeter had a valid point when he stated that people in his view do not have the skill or capacity to do any more than to vote. (Citizens and the state, 2009, track 2). This is supported by a personal pledge submitted by Kiltie Jackson a UK citizen which includes“

But most importantly, and over everything else, I swear that I will not take myself, or my country, too seriously because I am proud to be British and that is how we do it” (Blakely and Saward, 2009, p.363) So can a democratic voting system give the legitimacy of an organisation when in the UK only two thirds of the voting population voted? Further analysis shows only a quarter of the eligible voters voted Conservative forcing a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the new Government was formed by only 42% of eligible voters (BBC News Online). If you took the total population of the UK this makes 32% of the people. Is this enough to claim a monopoly as the legitimate governing authority, especially when split between two parties.

“Creating and maintaining political order is largely the job of the state, which we can define as a set of practices, a set of institutions and as a rather abstract idea”. (Blakely and Saward, 2009, p.360) In every state there are many laws, in the UK they range from sounding your car horn whilst stationary (NFHIB online) to murder, all prosecuted under the judicial system and giving a range of punishments from fines to life imprisonment. But can all laws be seen as a justifiable force, to prevent social chaos and keep social order or does this ‘big brother’ attitude actually create disorder by not giving adults their own responsibilities ?.

A House of Lords committee believed so, and claimed that Labour’s decision to ban smoking in all pubs, clubs and workplaces on 1st July 2007 was not justified by the “relatively minor” risk posed by passive smoking (telegraph online). The police forces are seen as the law enforcers and given the authority to use justifiable force during their duties. However what happens when they use force which is not justifiable is this reflected in the Government and should they be answerable when there is a breakdown. In April 2009 at the G20 summit in London 5,000 protestors rallying on climate change stated that they were falsely imprisoned by the police in contravention of article 5 of the Human Rights (Contact Law)

The high court ruled that thisuse of force was unjustified. So what happens in a state which is not democratic can this state be a legitimate governing body? There are many territories in the world at present where there has been a breakdown in social order; some where other states of the international community have got involved. Libya and its leader Muammar Gadaffi who has been in power since September 1st 1969 is one such state. Gadaffi was not democratically elected but seized control in a military coup deposing King Idrs (

He was not invited in by the people, but his followers after the coup named him commander in chief of the armed forces and chairman of Libya’s new governing body. As far as Gadaffi was concerned he became the legitimate governing body for his state and began his rule by expelling most of the Italian and Jewish nationals, removing the US and British military bases and outlawing beverages and gambling. So is it fear why Gadaffi has ruled for 42 yrs with his policies expressed in his writings ‘The Green book’.

Gadaffi’s legitimacy did not initially come into question internationally until he encroached on other Countries. His Government financed terrorist groups worldwide including in the United States and Northern Ireland. In 1988 the United Nations Security Council got involved with Libya’s alleged involvement in the destruction of a Pan American airliner over Lockerbie, and Gaddafi and Libya were isolated from the international community.

However since 2003 by turning over the perpetrators and ceasing its weapons programme, Gadaffi improved his image and assisted his country’s return to the international arena. However although claiming to be the legitimate Governing body in a non democratic election this Anarchy at some stage had to reach a climax, this peak was reached in 2011 with a rebel uprising fighting against Gadaffi forces, but should other states get involved? If we agree that UK is a legitimate state, although as discussed earlier this could be in question, has the Government the right to supply weapons and training to these rebels and what legitimacy have these rebels to use force.

If we look at Simon Bromley’s analogy of Privateers and Pirates (2009 p.418 -427) we appear to be going along a similar line, and the Libyan rebels of today could become the pirates of tomorrow. The UK foreign secretary Mr Hague visited Libya and stated the reason as, “to show our support for the Libyan people and for the National Transitional Council, the legitimate representative of the Libyan people”, he stopped short

of calling it the legitimate government, which France and Italy did. (BBC News online) So Hague is using the word legitimate to justify the UK’s use of force in another territory. Gaddafi has been governing the territory for 42yrs, and so is he using his logic, and believes he is justified to use force to quell the rebels and regain order. We may well be looking at two extremes but the UK, Gadaffi and the rebels are all stating that their use of force is justifiable. In conclusion, the UK are claiming the governing legitimacy by being democratic involving more of the people through citizens initiative and Jury’s but as examined even a democracy does not show the true thoughts of the voting public.

This compared with a president who is not voted in by the people but rules the territory as he considers fit. The main thing any governing body needs to show its legitimacy is to logically justify why they are in that position which in itself can lead to many debates. So one should ask can any state fully claim to be the legitimate governing authority in a territory, especially when it comes to using force in another country. 1,508 Words

ReferencesBBC News online: (accessed 3rd June 2011) BBC News online: (accessed 3rd June 2011) BBC News Online (accessed 5th June 2011) BBC News Online: (accessed 3rd June 2011) (accessed 4th June 2011) Blakely, G. and Saward, M (2009) ‘Political ordering’ in Taylor, S., Hinchcliffe, S., Clarke, J and Bromley, S. (eds) Exploring Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Bromley, S (2009) ‘Pirates and predators authority and power in international affairs’ in Taylor, S., Hinchcliffe, S., Clarke, J and Bromley, S. (eds) Exploring Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University. ‘Citizens and the state’ (2009) Exploring Social Lives [Audio CD 3], Milton Keynes, The Open University. Contact Law: (accessed 30th May 2010) Neighbours