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Three Questions about the Legitimacy of Groups and the Mobilization of Resources

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-0-85724-773-5, eISBN: 978-0-85724-774-2

Publication date: 17 November 2011


Constructing a theory of the legitimacy of groups, especially groups that mobilize the resources of their own members and provide pure or impure public goods such as collective action, raises some questions not encountered by theories of the legitimacy of acts, persons, or positions. Among these are: First, groups are typically nested in other groups. Groups nested in other groups may differ from each other both in their situations of action and in the larger social framework of norms, values, beliefs, practices, and procedures that guide action in them; or, in other words, in the two chief sources of their legitimacy. Does this pose a problem for the legitimacy of groups? If it does, with what consequences and under what conditions? Second, groups that mobilize the resources of their members for the purpose of providing them with pure or impure public goods have problems of both agency and collective action. Problems of agency and collective action make compliance with the claims made by the group on the resources of its members problematic. Even those willing to comply with them may be deterred by fear of the opportunism of others. Under what conditions do those who would be willing to comply were it not for fear of opportunism by others actually comply? Third, legitimacy is in some sense a resource. It is a characteristic instrumental to the mobilization of resources by a group. But is it a resource like any other? Absent land, labor, capital, technology or organization, does it matter how much legitimacy a group has? If not, what is the relation between legitimacy and resources?


Zelditch, M. (2011), "Three Questions about the Legitimacy of Groups and the Mobilization of Resources", Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 255-283.



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