Legitimacy is at the heart of all political regimes, without exception. All seek to justify themselves, whether in the name of a God, a truth, a people, or a nation. Even the bloodiest autocracies need to believe that they are necessary. As for democracies, they make extensive – even excessive – use of this notion, judging by the frequency of the accusations of illegitimacy and challenges against ballot box decisions.
Both legitimacy and illegitimacy are in reality only instruments for conquering, conserving, and contesting power. Drawing on the philosophy of Max Weber, Yves Mény reminds us that this plural and shifting notion is above all based on a belief in rightful domination.