Institutional Legitimacy Death Spiral

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Zuboff (2021) describes why the legitimacy of Institutions is essential for social stability:

[The] ongoing miracle of social order rests on “common sense knowledge,” which is “the knowledge we share with others in the normal self-evident routines of everyday life.” … The legitimacy and continuity of our institutions are essential because they buffer us from chaos by formalizing our common sense.

Bu inevitably, institutions get captured and lose legitimacy: Political systems that distribute money, opportunities etc. follow the interests of Power, and if power is very concentrated, then this distribution will favour the few. If this structural inequality is a) visible (via media and telecommunication) and b) criticisable (via ethics and Ideology critique), it reduces the legitimacy of a system’s institutions in the eyes of the many.

Because of this legitimacy loss, the rule-breaker gain widespread support in the political system. As his status gain has been dependent on legitimacy loss, it makes sense for him to seek further delegitimisation of institutions – a Strategy that so far has been adaptive for him. This delegitimisation has itself to be legitimised, so the rule-breaker a) turns actively against the institutions by “proving” their illegitimacy, for which he b) uses methods of inquiry that are not part if the institutions’ Paradigm, which further undermines the sources of their legitimacy.

At the end of this downward spiral, the institution dies – or is replaced in a revolution driven by an imagined attractor.


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