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. In democracies, legitimacy is indicated by its ideals, popular consent, representativeness, elections, rule of majority, civic liberties and similar privileges available to the people.
Grace A. Jones, with reference to the British political system, has mentioned certain sources of legitimacy in the following manner:
(1) Past visible in political and social institutions;
(2) Tradition of non-violence;
(3) Numerous symbols and rituals;
(4) Belief in the value and validity of existing political procedures, e.g., conventions;
(5) Election-procedure, freedom and consensus justifying laws;
(6) Homogeneous and integrated society, continuity of traditions in family from father to son, e.g., party allegiance; and
(7) Political culture with some degree of adaptability.
Dahl has also indicated various sources of winning legitimacy or earning compliance:
1. To encourage compliance:
(a) By increasing rewards for compliance,
(b) By decreasing disadvantages of compliance,
2. To discourage non-compliance:
(c) By decreasing rewards from other alternatives,
(d) By increasing disadvantages of other alternatives.
He has suggested that internal sources of rewards and deprivations are always better than external sources. More and more internalization gradually replaces the need of external sources. When the political system is widely accepted as legitimate and its policies are regarded as morally binding, the cost of compliance reduces. When legitimacy and authority are in low key, it has to make more use of money, police, privileges, weapons, status and other political resources. Obviously, democracy requires more legitimacy and authority than other systems.
Still legitimacy is not some high level abstract feeling, but a phenomenon existing underlying the whole system. It is related to whole system and its governance. It is not a moral feeling or subjective conceptualization. It is a belief of the people in the rightness of the activities of the government. But it comes out in concrete form also. In the words of Easton, it relates to the allocation of authoritative values for the society. Who, in what form, when, how, in what manner, and where are also the questions related to its legitimacy.
At the interval level, it is related to praise, honour, affection, etc., or their reverse forms like dis-honour, anomie, alienation, etc., At the external level it is connected with material things like land, money, license, status, privileges, immunities etc. They may not actually be given but expectation of getting them or the fear of losing them also works a lot in motivating each form of legitimacy. Material goods, in any system, are never unlimited; therefore, political leaders always try to economise them.
They do so by (i) preferring internal or abstract awards, and (ii) using means like leadership, influence, and propaganda. With the help of these, they are able to get compliance simply on the basis of communicating to them. Material rewards, apart from being limited and scarce, their distribution can also prove dysfunctional. But these internal and external sources should not be treated as separate. They are related with each other. In sum, internal resources are less costly than material resources.
Non-material resources of legitimacy are less expensive than running the political system on the basis of power as physical force. Democracy requires the first two sources, whereas dictatorship mostly operates on physical force. Therefore, cost of running a system on the basis of force is very high, making the system still more fragile, instable, and alienated.
Apart from the consideration of cost, it must be pointed out that authority is the most efficient form of influence. It is legitimacy which enables political actors to transform influence into authority. Power, influence, and authority, standing on the ground of legitimacy, do not require to spend much political resources. In the context of Third World countries, it can be stated that legitimacy plays a key role in getting along with their political system. They have scarce economic and political sources.
They have to telescope centuries into decades, and attain modernisation as early as possible. Only an attitude of ‘rightness’ or belief in the legitimacy of their structures, functions, procedures, leaders, and decisions can come to their rescue. Even, with less amount of power or a weakened government, a developing society can attain its goals. It keeps majority as well as minority communities bound to each other. No majority can keep a considerably big minority under coercion.
It has to win them over by propagating values, ideology, and role-expectations. So is the case with the minority groups and communities, as they too have to stand at par on the common levels of legitimacy. Within the bounds of this legitimacy, political leaders, parties, groups, and individuals are allowed to compete among themselves. As legitimacy is deeply entrenched into cultural values, secession or separatism cannot burst out so easily.