When something is legitimated, such as an employment practice in an organization (e.g., a family leave policy) or a particular person in a managerial position, this means that its existence and prevalence is taken for granted by a “social audience” (i.e., real other people or the presence of others implied by social norms and ideologies). Thus, legitimation refers to the taken-for-granted support of an aspect of social life (e.g., acts, individuals, a position, or a structure of positions) by real or implied other people. Questions of legitimacy repeatedly arise in studies pertaining to political and organizational structures, status relations in and between groups, and inequality.

The early 20th-century sociologist Max Weber noted that people feel obligated to obey the norms or rules associated with a legitimated ...

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