Among the resources for exercising power, legitimacy is of prime importance. Legitimacy provides an inner reason for a rule, an authority, or an order. The topic is centuries old. In feudal societies, for example, dynasties claimed legitimacy by God's will or by historic merits based mainly in wars. Today, legitimacy forms an important field of empirical research and political thought. Debates flourish between the poles of legitimation by procedures and legitimation by performance. Although the following principally deals with politics, law, and courts, legitimacy is also important for business, professions, and any kind of organization.

Max Weber (1864–1920) pointed out the function of legitimacy clearly in his sociology of dominance. Weber wrote that every power was concerned about its stability, which could not be guaranteed only ...

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