British Journal of Political Science

Article

Political Community, Legitimacy and Discrimination

J. A. Laponce*

Relating the notion of political community to those of discrimination and legitimacy — and, consequently, setting up a typology which will contrast communities by the criteria they use to distinguish members from non-members and by the location they give to legitimacy, placed either in a ruler or in a process — will be made easier if we consider first of all certain striking similarities which exist between the most private of social groups, the family, and the most public, the state, similarities which probably facilitate the transfer of the ideological constructs formed in infancy and childhood into the political expectancies and assumptions of adulthood. Let us distinguish communities defined through the brothers from communities defined through the father: communities centered around a leader from those centered on themselves. These contrasts will suggest to us a natural/ artificial continuum along which political communities can be ranked, those most resembling the family in their ideas about legitimate authority and legitimate membership being closer to the ‘natural’ end of the continuum. I will explain later the reasons for this distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’, but I must at the outset make it absolutely clear that the use of these terms does not in any way imply an evaluative preference on my part.

Footnotes

* University of British Columbia.