Asymmetry, Relationality and Networks of Power: Rethinking the Dynamics of Legitimacy and Illegitimacy in Intrastate Conflict
AuthorSchoon, Eric William
AdvisorBreiger, Ronald L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFrom academic scholarship to military policy and international law, legitimacy is regarded as critical in shaping the course and outcome of violent political conflict. Yet, our understanding of the conditions for legitimacy and its effects in the context of armed conflict has been limited by multiple challenges and inconsistencies. My dissertation addresses longstanding debates in the literature on armed conflict by turning attention to two key features of legitimation: the asymmetry between legitimacy and illegitimacy, and the relationality of legitimation. I argue that these concepts, which have been theoretically and empirically overlooked or underdeveloped in research on armed conflict, offer a path to overcoming the challenges associated with the study of legitimacy in this context. I advance this claim through three studies. The first study empirically develops the assertion that while the conditions for legitimacy vary by case, the conditions for illegitimacy transcend regional contexts, representing a more global phenomenon. Comparative analyses of 30 cases of civil conflict from 1978 to 2008 reveals significant patterns across space and time in the conditions for civilian perceptions that government sanctioned violence is illegitimate. And yet, consistent with existing literature, my analyses revealed no patterning in the conditions for legitimacy. Through historical research into the details of these 30 cases, I identify three general mechanisms that result in perceptions of illegitimacy. The second study turns attention to the effects of illegitimacy for violent non-state groups. Using historical and discursive data, I examine the effects of illegitimacy at this level through an in-depth study of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey. I introduce important correctives to existing theories, examining the cumulative effects of multiple sources of legitimation and showing that illegitimacy can provide much needed flexibility for oppositional groups. The third study examines the causes and conditions that lead to intrastate conflict recurrence. Combining quantitative analyses with comparative and historical research, I identify four distinctive pathways to conflict recurrence. I show how the conditions associated with each pathway shape the networks in which relationships of legitimacy and illegitimacy are embedded, and I discuss how these conditions mediate the effects of legitimacy and illegitimacy on conflict recurrence. By focusing on the asymmetry and relationality of legitimacy and illegitimacy, this work engages fundamental assumptions that are widely taken for granted and overlooked in scholarship on legitimacy in violent conflict and suggests significant revisions to existing theories of legitimation in armed conflict. Through this shift, my research identifies previously unobserved patterns in how evaluations of rightness and acceptability are made across space and time, allowing us to better understand the power dynamics that shape and constrain the networks of actors engaged in armed conflict.
Degree ProgramGraduate College