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Legitimation and De-legitimation in Non-State Governance: LEO-4000 and Sustainable Agriculture in the United States

Transforming the Rural

ISBN: 978-1-78714-824-6, eISBN: 978-1-78714-823-9

Publication date: 30 June 2017


Multi-stakeholder initiatives have proliferated as a leading form of standard-development, as they are understood to be more legitimate than other forms of non-state governance. The legitimacy of multi-stakeholder initiatives is a result of their perceived congruence with normative democratic principles. Using a case study of a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop a National Sustainable Agriculture Standard (LEO-4000) for the United States, this chapter examines the practices and politics of legitimation in non-state governance. The analysis of LEO-4000 indicates that, first, the simultaneous construction of legitimacy and standards affects the kinds of standards developed. Second, understandings of legitimacy are influenced by the standpoint of actors. Third, legitimacy has become a strategic dimension of standard-development, which actors use to further their interests. Based on these findings, we contend that non-state governance that relies on normative democratic principles for legitimation is constrained in its ability to develop stringent standards. Thus, there may be limits to non-state governance as a regulatory tool, and to achieve non-economic objectives such as increased sustainability. For rural areas, the implication is that they are becoming enmeshed in an emerging system of non-state governance that continues to be highly contested, particularly regarding who has the right to govern such areas. The findings in this chapter are based on qualitative data, including 34 interviews and participant-observation.



Hatanaka, M. and Konefal, J. (2017), "Legitimation and De-legitimation in Non-State Governance: LEO-4000 and Sustainable Agriculture in the United States", Transforming the Rural (Research in Rural Sociology and Development, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 135-153.



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