Political Legitimacy under Debate: Democracy and Authority in the Netherlands in the 1880s, 1930s and 1960s
This research project combines a politico-philosophical approach with historical research into views on legitimacy. Political legitimacy is generally considered a complex and somewhat ambiguous concept and theories of what constitutes legitimacy differ over time. Elisabeth Dieterman will attempt to throw light upon varying notions of political legitimacy through analysis of historical discussions of democracy and political authority. Focus will be on (parliamentary) debates of the 1880s, 1930s, and 1960s, as these decades were marked each by its own challenge to the political system and its democratic institutions. While the 1880s witnessed a process of democratization and the emergence of party politics, the 1930s are regarded as a period dominated by a crisis of political authority and a trend towards strengthening authority. The 1960s were again characterized by a crisis of authority, but this time the answer was sought in democratizing political institutions rather than strengthening authority. Each of these developments and the ensuing debates are connected with fundamental changes in ideas about democracy and authority. The aim of this research project is to identify these changes and, subsequently, connect them to notions of legitimacy.
A combination of politico-philosophical and historical perspectives is expected to be fruitful in two ways. On the one hand, a philosophical understanding of legitimacy itself and related concepts, such as representation and consent, may prove useful in interpreting historical discussions. On the other hand, it is expected that an historical analysis of these discussions will contribute to a better understanding of the requirements of political legitimacy in general.