In modern social discourse, the concept of legitimacy of
political power is widely used. However, very few people understand what is really
hidden under this term. As a rule, they confuse it with the category of legality,
substituting for the existence of real support of the authorities by the public
with its actual or imagined formal legality. Such misunderstanding is especially
popular among those who call themselves opposition to modern Russian power. However,
the problem is not only this.
Today, one can often hear arguments about the legitimacy
(illegitimacy) of political regimes, which gives the impression that it is a question
of some universal parameter of “right” states. “Illegitimate”
the media declare almost any political system in which the formal norms of Western
democracy (the same legality) are not observed, implying that any “normal”
Western regime is legitimate by default. The calculation here does not even accept
the textbook, although somewhat outdated, Max Weber’s formula about the existence
of three types of legitimate domination in the human society, which vary depending
on the specific conditions of its existence.
Thus, there is a far-reaching profanity
in the mass information space of a very specific scientific category. In this very
situation there is nothing glaring. Unfortunately, in recent years, science has
become very densely mingled with ordinary thinking. However, the question of the
legitimacy of political power stands apart, since it directly concerns the prospects
for the existence of the Russian state in its present form. That is why the problem
of the legitimacy of today’s power should be discussed separately and fundamentally.
This is important not only from the standpoint of restoring at least a minimum of
“scientific justice”. In modern Russia too often the notion of legitimacy
is manipulated for political purposes. Such a deliberate misrepresentation of a
significant part of public opinion carries a serious danger. In this connection,
it is advisable to give a general theoretical analysis of the category of legitimacy
in the proposed article, as well as to understand what are the crises of legitimacy,
what are the ways to overcome them and how legitimate (illegitimate) is the modern
political system in Russia.
Therefore, the goal under consideration
In this paper, it is necessary to solve
a number of problems, such as:
consider the problem of the legitimacy
of political power in modern Russia;
describe the specifics of the struggle
against the crisis of legitimacy in Russia.
State and democratic legitimacy in Theory
First of all, the notion
of “legitimacy” should be disclosed.
consists in conformity to values of the political authority of any country, which
is founded on the current political regime’s principles. It`s possible to add
another characteristic, that empirical public justification refers to what real
people actually want and think; accordingly, a regime is legitimate when
citizens agree that it is legitimate. The last requirement fits already to
democratic approach of legitimacy. And in this sense, it would be recognized as
a legitimate regime, not only acting according to their own values, but in
place so as to ensure the delivery of results that meet people’s aspirations.
The problem of determining the legitimacy thus complicated. To clarify it is
necessary to refer to a recognized theorist of legitimacy – the German
sociologist Max Weber. He proposed to distinguish three “ideal types”
– three models of legitimacy:
Legal auth?rity is based on a
system of rules that is applied
administratively and judicially in acc?rdance with known principles. The
persons who administer those rules are appointed ?r elected by legal
procedures. Superi?rs are also subject to rules that limit their p?wers, separate
their private lives fr?m ?fficial duties and require written d?cumentation.
auth?rity is based on a system in which auth?rity is legitimate because it
“has always existed”. Pe?ple in power usually enj?y it because they
have inherited it. ?fficials consist either of personal retainers or of
personal loyal allies, such as vassals or tributary l?rds. Their
prerogatives are usually similar to those of the ruler ab?ve them, just reduced
in scale, and they t?o are ?ften selected based on inheritance.
auth?rity is based on the charisma of the leader, wh? sh?ws
that he possesses the right t? lead by virtue of magical powers, prophecies,
heroism, etc. His followers respect his right to lead because of his unique
qualities (his charisma), not because of any tradition or legal rules.
?fficials consist of th?se who have sh?wn personal dev?tion to the ruler, and
of th?se who p?ssess their ?wn charisma.
It is often the case,
when charismatic, traditional and legal legitimacies reinforce each other.
However it`s recognized that the same forms of legitimacy may conflict.
Besides Max Weber’s
typology of legitimacy, the need and feeling for justice can be regarded as
another source of legitimacy. In fact, ideology of the people, and not of the
rulers, is the main source of legitimacy, but we can distinguish another
sources of legitimacy such as :
direct participation of citizens in administration of affairs of society and
the State ensures the involvement of people to the policy, to allow these
citizens to feel closer to their intended and political choices.
through compulsion, but in various forms. The restrictions reveals in
limitation of right and citizens’ freedom. The stronger compulsion, the below is
the level of legitimacy.
The problem of
delegitimisation occupies an important place in functioning of public power, which
can happen either abruptly or gradually. This is principally the most common
means of delegitimization outlined hereunder, that could cause a crisis and
even the failure of political regime:
ethnicity, separatism, the ongoing civil war
vectors of the economic development of the regions,
of the geopolitical position
failure of governing
influence on the legitimacy processes
bureaucratization and corruption
Those were the most
important problems of democratic legitimacy that are becoming essential in
contemporary political reality.
The problem of the legitimacy of political power in modern
In most modern countries,
there is a legal-rational type of legitimacy of power, based on faith in the authenticity
of formal rules and the need for their implementation. It is based on the belief
in the legality of the holders of power. Individuals are subject to established
laws, and managers act in strict accordance with laws on strictly rational schemes.
Political power legitimacy
is usually won by ideological and economic means. In traditional and authoritarian
societies, it is achieved primarily through means of ideological influence. Thus,
in traditional societies, religion is the primary tool for legitimizing religion,
which justifies the divine right of monarchs to power, and ensures recognition of
power by the population. In authoritarian societies, political, socio-economic ideology
plays a decisive role in the legitimization of power. In such societies, the power
to legitimize the regime actively uses democratic phraseology, but “such regimes
eventually lose legitimacy, as this or that election is made, promises are not fulfilled,
frustration is being developed.”
Certainly, during the years
of V.V. Putin’s legitimacy of political power in Russia has greatly increased. The
process of legitimizing power, restoring confidence in it was promoted by such factors
as relative prosperity in the economy, raising the standard of living of the population,
recreating the security atmosphere, strengthening Russia’s international positions,
skilful ideological processing of the masses, etc. However, the achieved level of
legitimacy contradicts the spirit and nature of legal-rationalist legitimacy, because
it is based on a low level of development of political culture, manipulation of
public consciousness, as well as a development model proposed to society, which
involves the exchange of democratic freedoms for relative economic well-being.
The poll from the Russian non-governmental
research organization Levada Center on June 24 confirms the popularity among
the public of Vladimir Putin, despite the war in Ukraine on the border with
Russia, economic problems and Western sanctions. This year the record was set
at 89 percent, in addition 64 percent of respondents approved the political
course of Putin. In contrast Putin’s
record rating, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is satisfied with only 66 percent
of public supporters, and the second trusted man after Vladimir Putin’s in the
country according to a poll, is a Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
For a system with weak institutions,
an inert society, corruption and bad faith in the rule of law, Putin’s high
rating is a key source of legitimacy. The high rating not only justifies the
regime’s authoritarianism, but also protects it from a palace coup, so it is
necessary that the elite of the government maintain this rating high. The
Kremlin does this by taking action, mobilizing the population on behalf of the
leader and using its control over the media to form public views of Putin.
“Faith in the rating supersedes all. Political
institutions, ideologies, in fact, the state itself,” political scientist
Aleksandr Kynev said in a recent article. Putin and his image-makers no doubt
re-member the rapid drop in Boris Yeltsin’s standing and crisis of the late
According to one recent study, some
Russians perceive political power differently than people in the West: Russians
see the tsar as distant, almost sacral, they appeal to him to make things right
in a system over which they have no control. Putin’s high rating does not
necessarily mean that the Russian people love him, it rather means that he
plays his role perfectly.
In 2003, there were three key events
that became a turning point in Russia’s transition to authoritarianism. In
June, the press minister withdrew TVS from the air, the last nationwide
independent television channel of Russia, explaining his decision as
“defending the interests of spectators”. In October, Mikhail
Khodorkovsky was arrested: the Yukos case would signal a ban on independent
political and civil activities for business and would destroy any remaining
illusions about the independence of the Russian judicial system. The latest and
not unimportant event was elections that did not meet democratic standards,
according to the OSCE.1
The crisis of legitimacy of political parties and the fight
In our time, much is said
about the crisis of power : political parties
that promise to resolve it in case of coming to power. It seems that this crisis
is rooted only in individuals who occupy state posts. But historical examples show
that overcoming the crisis of power is the result of the long creative activity
of the whole society. In connection with the problem of crisis, the most interesting
aspect is the power aspect, called legitimacy in science.
The legitimate authority
is recognized, the legitimacy of which is justified by some higher sanction. Is
the authority recognized as God-established (in the Russian and Western European
Middle Ages), subordinate to the body of laws existing in the
state (the so-called rule-of-law state); or the corresponding opinion of the people
(the democracy) – all this is the ground of legitimacy.
a long-term unanimous agreement of society in relation to the authorities and their
institutions. It also includes, among other things, unofficial approval of power
by the people, recognition of this power by the people and justification of actions
for the exercise of power2.
The crisis of the legitimacy
of political parties in Russia from a civilizational point of view was caused by
the crisis of etatism and paternalism, as the basic principles of the normative
value system merging into Russian civilization with statehood. On the social level,
the crisis of legitimacy of political parties in Russia is due, on the one hand,
to skepticism and discontent of a large part of the population by the activities
of the state authorities, as well as political parties representing specific interest
groups; on the other hand, the weakness of the government itself, its inability
to effectively address the pressing problems of modern Russian reality.
As A.V. Lubsky points out,
Russia has a situation described in the theories of “state overload” (Britten
and Nordhaus), “the law of the crisis” (Habermas). These theories explain
the fall in the legitimacy of political parties by two circumstances: first, by
the fact that state power assumes far more obligations than it is able to fulfill;
and secondly, the fact that in the pre-election campaigns the government and the
parties, give much more promises than they can fulfill. Irresponsibility of the
government, parties, political leaders leads to disillusionment and skepticism in
the mass consciousness, and to the political
power’s loss of legitimacy3.
Political power, in order
to be legitimate, must correspond more or less to different cultural types, in
Russia, for example: archaic – the Old Russian folk type; traditionalist – Orthodox-Slavic
and socio-socialist; sovremennomu – liberal-western type of culture.
In a modern State, there
is a need for moral policy. In the country there is a situation when in the public
opinion the idea that all the difficulties experienced by the country is directly
related to dishonesty, fraud, corruption and warfare at all levels of the socio-political
hierarchy begins to prevail, which is confirmed by corruption scandals in power
structures. On the wave of massive moral indignation, the idea is born that it is
worth putting an end to plundering the country and plundering the people, how everything
will be adjusted and all problems will be solved by themselves.
A number of circumstances
encourages people to view the power of political parties through the prism of moral
values: a low standard of living for a significant part of the population, which
causes discomfort, irritation and anger; confidence in the fact that political power
loses the ability to change anything “from above”; the conviction of society
in non-participation in “troubles” and “turmoil” in the country;
The presence in society of demagogic political forces and figures who denounce the
immorality of politicians in power. A significant part of the population in our
country begins to turn to the idea of “honesty” of power as the only possible
means to establish life and bring order to the country4.
5For the most comprehensive idea
about the level of legitimacy in modern Russia, I will analyze a survey data by
the ANO Levada Center between 1994 and 2016.
According to a survey,
it can be concluded that in general during the period from 1994 to 2000 trust placed in the President has been rapidly declining, but this rate has
soared to 63,5% after V. V. Putin came to power in 2000. Relatively steady has
remained the trust in State institutions, such as Federation Council, State
Duma and even less in political parties.
This is partly explained by the traditional
personal authority in Russia (paternalism and etatism). But what’s the point of
erosion of the credibility of the government components, except president Putin
It seems that the main reason for the
inability of political parties to fulfill their social functions is the gap between
the government and the people. But this gap is not only due to power, which is evidence
of a unilateral approach. Power becomes the same as a person does, based on his
needs, understanding of the essence of power and the corresponding expectations
from it. The government must manage adequately
the requirements that are imposed on it in accordance with the dynamic and qualitative
changes of the modern world. Most countries are moving to a new stage of social
self-organization, with increased demands on the individual, state and public institutions.
Due to new tasks, the system of power must be built in such a way as not to suppress
the diversity of interests in society, to strive for the consent and solidarity
of all its members, and citizens should show tolerance to each other and mutual
To a greater extent, the
legitimacy of political parties has been acquired through the legal way of forming
power institutions. Political power, which has found support among the population
of the country, has a chance to be effective in its political, economic and social
activities, as it enjoys support, authority and does not encounter opposition in
Legitim?cy ?ttr?cts attenti?n
when its crisis arises. The crisis of legitim?cy is devel?ped, on the part of the pe?ple, in m?ss opposition to p?wer, and in an ?ttempt to ?verthrow the government.
strength?ning of c??rci?n, the represent?tive`s loss of the belief in the legitim?cy of the exercise of authorities power these
are ?lear signs ?f
a crisis of ?uthorities
Trust in the EU, national governments and
national legislatives alike has fall straight down to record lows, since the
economic crisis in 2007.
Nick Perks, Trust
Secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust speaks about the reasons why
people were losing trust in politics: “I think there are probably different
reasons for that. I think we’re becoming more suspicious of authority
generally. I think if you were 100 years ago, or 500 years ago, we lived in
very hierarchical societies where decision-makers, whether that was politics or
in the church, had a lot of power and people didn’t tend to question authority.
And I think in the modern era we tend to question authority, and so I think
that’s one of the driving factors. Then there have been examples of poor behavior
by politicians and decision-makers. And, I think there’s also something of a
cycle of distrust; the media tends to run stories about politicians when
they’re not behaving well, and it makes it more difficult to build a positive
relationship between ordinary people and decision-makers.”7
Resolution of the crisis of legitimacy in each
specific case, of course, individually. But this is always the same problem. This is the restoration of the basis
of legitimacy. The people are not rebelling because they don’t live well, but because they don’t believe that power is based on the idea that
it considers legitimate8.
The course of the crisis
of legitimacy is often complicated by the fact that different groups of rulers and
subordinates have different criteria for legitimacy. The criterion of legitimacy
is a way of testing the legitimacy of the ruler and his actions. When a society
recognizes the same basis of legitimacy, the criteria may be different. And if there
is no unanimity about the grounds for legitimacy, then the chaos of anarchy in society
But in the presence of
a crisis, it is important not only to disclose its causes, but also to overcome
Thus, we can draw the following
The realities in modern Russia
are such that authoritarian tendencies are growing in its political life. The manifestations
of these tendencies include the narrowing of the political field, the reduction
of political competition, the lack of conditions for the formation of a multi-party
system, the corruption of the elite, the distrust of business to the state, the
revision and elimination of some elements of direct democracy. Objectively, these
factors reinforce paternalistic sentiments and contribute to the personification
of political parties’power. In turn, personalized power, as world experience shows,
needs major political, economic, social projects, rituals, and new symbols, including
a linguistic one. As such, in modern Russia, the direct video bridge of the president
with the population of the country, the gathering of young people on Seliger, tough
rhetoric of the state, international image events (Universiade, Olympiad, the planned
World Cup, etc.) have become regular. Undoubtedly, not all the above-mentioned
measures are without positive significance, but at the same time they are just a
cover for real policies based on “manual management” of the state and
The political stability
of the system as a whole—thus will be determined to a significant degree by
whether his popular standing begins to drift significantly downward in the
coming months, either as the patriotic fervor resulting from the invasion of
Ukraine fades or economic problems mount.
Further development of Russia, it should
be assumed, will continue along the path of strengthening the authoritarian regime
and minimizing political competition. All possible channels of influence on public
consciousness will link the well-being of Russia for many years to come with a personalized
power, the need to combat internal and external enemies. To this end, the option
of a partial revision of the results of the privatization of the 1990s, the encouragement
of moderate nationalism, is not excluded. On this wave, mass consciousness, formed
by authoritarianism, can easily take any, even not quite legal steps for the sake
of future prosperity.
2 Blyakher LE, Ogurtsova TL The
adventures of the legitimacy of power in Russia, or the re-creation of the presumption
of guilt. – The policy. Political studies. – 2006. – No. 3. P. 53-67.
3 Grigorieva E.B. Political effects
of authoritarian syndrome in the current political process in Russia. –
Bulletin of Tomsk State University. – 2014. – No. 379. P. 46-54.
4 Rose R. The Impact of President
Putin on Popular Support for Russia’s Regime. – Post-Soviet Affairs. – 2007. –
?2. Vol. 23. P. 97-117.
8 Kalachev K. Putin without options.
– The newspaper. RU. 16.01. S. 1. Access: http: //
www.gazeta.ru/politics/2015/01/14 (circulation date 04.11.2017).