The concept of legitimate governance in the contemporary municipal and international legal systems: an interdisciplinary analysis


University of British Columbia

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Master of Laws - LLM




All over today's world, there exists a crisis of legitimate governance concerning the acquisition and (ab)use of governmental power. Given the undesirable consequences of this crisis, is it possible, as a first step in the struggle to eliminate it, to construct a workable normative (rather than descriptive) model for the evaluation of governance as legitimate or illegitimate? Do reasonably determinate rules exist within international law which collectively provide a barometer for the assessment of governance as illegitimate? If so, does the concept of legitimate governance as reflected by these rules address the widespread inequities in the socioeconomic relations of power within and without municipal polities? If not, is such a concept of political legitimacy not defective? Are there normative or other consequences that flow from a determination that a regime is illegitimate? What is the character of the process by which such a determination is made by the international community? And is that community itself a legitimate evaluator of municipal governance? I have utilised knowledge from within and without law; sought to integrate the operation of international and municipal norms; gone beyond doctrine to explore the forces outside of law that constrain the operation of law; and adopted an evaluative view of the concept of legitimacy. I conclude that there are norms in contemporary international law which constitute useful criteria for the evaluation of municipal governance. I have, however, lamented the disregard with which international law has treated the need for socio-economic equity within and between states, when such equity is an imperative for political legitimacy. I also argue that the process of international legitimation needs re-alignment in the service of legitimacy norms. I conclude by exposing the crisis of legitimacy that faces the present system of global governance, arguing that if that system is to remain credible, and therefore effective, in the regulation of municipal governance, then it must be overhauled to critically reduce the selectivity and partiality which it now often displays.

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