Power & Legitimacy

Democracy is only one view of what is a legitimate way of exercising political power. Examine the more important ways in which people believe power is legitimate, focusing on Europe, Islam, India and China; both traditional and contemporary.


  • Introduction. Relationship between power and legitimacy. Different ways of giving legitimacy to the use of power.
  • Europe. The Christian heritage. Divine kings. Changes from the French enlightenment and democracy. Current issues.
  • Islam. God and the ruler. Muslims under non-Muslim rulers. Different sects approaches.
  • China. Confucian morality and traditional Chinese views. Changes under the PRC.
  • India. Hindu/Buddhist approaches. Introduction of Islam. Influence from British colonial period. Contemporary views.
  • Conclusion. Summing up and discussion. Comparison of different views and their significance for the contemporary world.

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Have an understanding of the different approaches to how power should be exercised.
  2. Gain a specific understanding of the past and present approaches in Europe, Islam, India and China.
  3. Appreciate how and why different cultures views clash.