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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 48, Issue 1, January 2022

Realistic and Pragmatic Approaches to Democratic Legitimacy

Ilaria CozzaglioOrcid-ID
Pages 61-88

Legitimacy between Acceptance and Acceptability
A Subjects-First View

Political realists argue that the concept of political legitimacy should be linked to subjects’ beliefs, while still offering normative guidance. In this article, I suggest doing so by referring to the concepts of acceptance and acceptability. I argue that a regime is legitimate if its power is accepted by subjects, provided that such acceptance meets the requirements of acceptability: subjects’ beliefs about the regime’s legitimacy need to successfully satisfy three requirements—coherence, fact-sensitivity, and politics-sensitivity—via entering public debate. I rely on pragmatism to investigate the link between subjects’ beliefs and their experience of facing political authority.