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Carving up concepts?: differentiating between trust and legitimacy in public attitudes towards legal authority

Jackson, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0003-2426-2219 and Gau, Jacinta M. (2015) Carving up concepts?: differentiating between trust and legitimacy in public attitudes towards legal authority. In: Shockley, E., Neal, T. M. S., PytlikZillig, L. and Bornstein, B., (eds.) Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Trust: Towards Theoretical and Methodological Integration. Springer, New York, USA.

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In recent years, scholars of criminal justice and criminology have brought legitimacy to the forefront of academic and policy discussion. The focus has been primarily – though not exclusively – on legitimacy within policing, with the most common approach framing legitimacy as a self-regulatory scheme that can enhance widespread voluntary compliance with the law and cooperation with legal authorities. In the most influential definition, institutional trust is assumed to be an integral element of legitimacy (Tyler, 2006a, 2006b). For an individual to find the police to be legitimate, for instance, she must feel that it is her positive duty to obey the instructions of police officers (she grants the police the rightful authority to dictate appropriate behavior), but she must also believe that police officers exercise their power appropriately. In this chapter we argue that the nature, measurement and motivating force of trust and legitimacy is in need of further explication. Considering these two concepts in a context of a type of authority that is both coercive and consent-based in nature, we make the case that legitimacy is (a) the belief that an institution exhibits properties that justify its power and (b) a duty to obey that emerges out of this sense of appropriateness; that trust is about positive expectations about valued behavior from institutional officials; and that legitimacy and institutional trust overlap if one assumes that people judge the appropriateness of the police as an institution on the basis of the appropriateness of officers' use of power. Our discussion will, we hope, be of broad theoretical and policy interest.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Springer
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Methodology
Research centres and groups > Mannheim Centre for Criminology
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2015 13:55
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2021 23:04

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