6.3.5 Legitimacy of Political Systems

A political system is a framework of rules and practices for appointing politicians and empowering them to make decisions which significantly affect people’s lives.  A legitimate political system is defined here as one which the population sees as having the right to exercise power and enforce obedience.

There are various ways of assessing political legitimacy.  The following sub-sections step through the subject:

  • The stability of a political system depends upon its legitimacy (
  • Different authors have proposed criteria for assessing it (, one of whom was David Beetham.
  • Beetham proposed a three-layer assessment model. It includes agreed rules, shared beliefs and evidence of public consent – all of which are essential to legitimacy (
  • The evidence of public consent is explored in relation to different political systems (



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/635a.htm