Global Political Legitimacy and the Structural Power of Capital

Journal of Social Philosophy 54 (4):490-509 (2023)
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Abstract

In contemporary democracies, global capitalism exerts a significant influence over how state power is exercised, raising questions about where political power resides in global politics. This question is important, since our specific considerations about justifiability of political power, i.e. political legitimacy, depend on how we characterize political power at the global level. As a partial answer to this question, I argue that our notion of global political legitimacy should be reoriented to include the structural power of the Transnational Capitalist Class as its subject matter. Structural power is a social relation in which the institutional context makes some agents comply with others’ preferences regardless of actors’ intentional efforts to bring about such outcomes. Even when global business elites do not intentionally exercise power to obtain political control of global governance, their structural power has recognizable effects that partly enforce the world order. To advance my claim, I utilize the radical realists’ argument that the notion of legitimacy is applicable to a broader range of social practices that are beyond dyadic power relations, i.e. rulers intentionally exercising power over subjects.

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Ugur Aytac
Utrecht University

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