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Legitimacy as a hybrid phenomenon

Jenco, Leigh K. (2015) Legitimacy as a hybrid phenomenon. In: Chan, Joseph, Williams, Melissa and Shin, Doh C., (eds.) Legitimacy in East Asia. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

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The chapters in this volume have each explored the idea of legitimacy in East Asia from various angles, often emphasizing the historical exchanges between nations within the region as well as the voluntary and involuntary encounters of East Asia with European and American powers. One salient feature of these studies is the sheer diversity and complexity of the cultural phenomena they each call “legitimacy.” Legitimacy appears variously as a philosophical justification for rule (Williams), a set of subjective judgments or citizen attitudes (Shin), or a recognition by citizens of the morality of the regime that rules them (Bell). Its character is described as exhibiting “traditional” East Asian features (Bell), stemming from what Gilley identifies as “a pervasive political culture” of the region (Gilley, p. 2)—even as it remains bound up with fundamental questions of modernity, including phenomena such as bureaucratization and rationalization that may have universal valence (Williams, Tan and Wong). In this concluding chapter, I suggest that hybridity is a concept which can profitably illuminate the definitions of legitimacy proposed by each of the preceding chapters. Drawing on both historical and contemporary sources, including the Laozi, Liang Qichao, Homi Bhabha, and the contents of the chapters themselves, I conceptualize hybridity as a dynamic process rather than an end result. The concept portrays social realities as always constituted as opposed to, say, merely episodically enhanced) by multiple elements whose relative content and relationship change dynamically over time. I use this concept to render coherent some of the conflicting empirical evidence we see in the chapters. This attempt at coherence also hopes to resist prefigured expectations of “Asian” or “Western” political behavior. In doing so, I try to refine theoretically more promising models for thinking about legitimacy. I will use examples from each of the chapters to explore these implications. I hope to show that hybrid conceptualizations and techniques allow the evidence of Asian political behavior to “speak for itself” rather than remain imperfectly captured by existing categories of social science analysis. I hope this idea offers a new perspective for understanding the chapters in the volume, as well as for formulating future research agendas for the study of East Asia.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > Government
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2015 10:06
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2020 23:21

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