Conference 'Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation': Call for workshop proposals

The Leiden research profile area on Political Legitimacy invites workshop proposals for the international conference ‘Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation’. The central question is whether the increase of regulations has helped or hindered the legitimacy of political systems, including modern democracies. While legitimacy is a contested concept, most contemporary accounts take that popular legitimacy, the idea that power should be justified in the eyes of the people, is an important topic. The role of regulation in achieving legitimate rule has been and will remain an important research question in many academic disciplines. We invite prospective workshop directors to submit a workshop proposal on a theme related to this subject.

The conference is open to scholars from history, law, politics, public administration, political philosophy and international relations. It will take place on Wednesday 23 (evening only), Thursday 24 and Friday 25 January 2013 in Leiden, the Netherlands. The conference is organized by the Leiden research profile area on Political Legitimacy, a university-funded interdisciplinary research group that aims to strengthen research on legitimacy both inside and outside Leiden University.

Conference theme

The political legitimacy of national states and the international system is a cause for concern among observers and policy-makers. While the evidence for a decline of legitimacy is mixed at best – many measures of trust in public institutions, quality of political representation and support for democracy do not show a large decline – there is a growing feeling of discontent with the current political system in many liberal democracies.

Political decision-making has increasingly been transferred beyond the direct control of presidents and parliaments: globalization, Europeanization and the growth of non-majoritarian institutions impact the way in which national authorities can decide on policies. In many ways their hands are tied by the European Union, central banks and legal authorities. The margins of decision-making are getting smaller and decision-making increasingly involves regulation. In particular, politicians create institutions and rules that limit their freedom to act later on.

At the same time, rules and institutions have arguably been the main force behind the creation of legitimate authority. Historically, lawless societies have usually been regarded as illegitimate. Can legitimacy exist without rules or does legitimacy presuppose (fixed) rules, and, if so, how should they be defined in different situations? In the last century the rational-legal type of legitimacy seems to have become central to modern (liberal) democracies. Indeed, one could argue that the most crucial element of modern liberal states is that they are bound by the rule of law. This is what we call the paradox of regulation: on the one hand rules and regulations are constitutive of political legitimacy; on the other hand they limit the freedom to act, which seems to impede the capacity of political regimes to foster political legitimacy.

While liberal democracies tend to create legitimacy via rules, authoritarian and semi-authoritarian systems, such as modern-day Russia and China, have historically attempted to create legitimacy via their policies and actions. How should we consider these alternatives to liberal democracy in the light of the debate on political legitimacy? And what can we learn from the way legitimacy was organized in societies before the advent of modern democracy with its constitutional rules? Is, on the other hand, modern populist criticism of liberal rules and institutions undermining or in the end buttressing legitimacy?

The conference Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation aims to explore these developments and their consequences in a multi-disciplinary setting with researchers of history, law, politics, public administration, political philosophy and international relations. We therefore welcome workshop proposals that approach the question of legitimacy from various angles; especially those combining insights from different disciplines.

Conference format

The conference consists of two parts: plenary sessions with internationally renowned speakers in the field of political legitimacy and workshop sessions in which papers are presented and discussed. The workshop format involves working groups of about 10-12 participants, who each present their paper to this group. This opens up the possibility for constructive and intensive discussions among a small group of researchers with a similar research interest.

Workshop proposals

Workshop proposals should be connected to the main theme of the conference, although the exact questions studied could of course vary between workshops. We welcome proposals from all relevant disciplines employing a wide variety of research approaches, both normative and empirical.

We invite workshop proposals from any researcher working in the field of political legitimacy. Normally workshops will have two directors. To stimulate international and inter-disciplinary debate we will prioritize workshops with directors from different disciplines and from different countries (or both).

Your proposal should cover the following points:

  1. An outline of the topic
    Explain what the topic of the workshop is and why it is a relevant and urgent theme.
  2. Relation to the conference theme and existing work
    Explain how the proposal relates to the conference theme and existing work in this field.
  3. Inter-disciplinary approach
    Indicate how different disciplines relate to the workshop topic. Also discuss who the likely participants are to be – you do not need to provide a full list of names, but make a convincing argument why the workshop will be attractive to researchers.
  4. Type of papers
    Try to indicate the type of papers you wish to attract, e.g. empirical, case study, comparative, theory.
  5. Biographical note
    Please outline (in 60-80 words) for each workshop director: disciplinary background, current research interests, most recent publications and academic affiliation.

The total length of the proposal should not exceed 1500 words. Please send the proposal to The (extended) deadline for workshop proposals is 1 May 2012.

Last Modified: 29-03-2012