Political legitimacy: institutions and identities

The development of political identities and legitimacy of political institutions are academically exciting and socially highly relevant issues.

‘Politics’ has been under fire for a while now and everywhere the complaint can be heard that there is a gap between politics, both national and European, and the people. The vital question, which forms the basis of this gap, is: what gives an administration the right to govern? Seen from the viewpoint of constitutional law, that right is of course based on the election results and the subsequent cabinet formation.

But there is more. There also has to be a sufficient degree of legitimacy: the wide-spread belief among the population that those in power are the right people to govern. Legitimacy is therefore what grants those in power the authority required to rule the country. The legitimacy of a political system depends on how effectively political administration and political institutions, such as governments, parliaments and political parties, work. Yet, a neo-corporatist model, such as the Dutch Poldermodel, is also a political institution. However, the legitimacy of a political system depends just as much on identities, on a practice of citizenship and a sense of identity and engagement among the people. Institutions and identities may coincide and together reinforce identity, but there will always be a certain tension. This tension between institutions and identities has been caused by history, by the way the Netherlands and other countries came into being and have developed into national unities. The historic perspective is vital for a proper insight into the development of legitimacy. In the ‘political legitimacy’ research area, the central theme is the tension between institution and identity, now and in the past, also viewed from a comparative and a European Union perspective.

The close collaboration between historians, political scientists, legal specialists and public administration scholars makes this Leiden research area highly interdisciplinary. This, in addition to the close links between research on the one hand, and national and European politics and legal frameworks on the other, enables Leiden research on politics and political legitimacy to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges that both individual nations and the European Union are facing today.


  • Ruud Koole, Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
  • Henk te Velde, Professor of Dutch History, Faculty of Humanities
  • Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, Leiden Law School

Participating Faculties
  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Law School
  • Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Individual Grants Awarded
  • Vici: 1
  • Vidi: 2
  • Veni: 2
  • Mosaic: 4

Last Modified: 01-03-2010